By: Leslie Pizzagalli
Sitting in yoga class, you know my ears perked up once I heard Professor Lara Ward explain there was “chocolate therapy” available in Western’s Holistic Health Center. Whatever it was, I needed to know more. After further investigation, I discovered that the Holistic Health Studies Center is located in Berkshire Hall, room 119C. Seeing as that section of the school was filled with lockers and gymnasiums, I overlooked it due to the fact I am not an athlete. However, there is much more in store than just that.
Tucked away in the lower level of Berkshire, the Holistic Health Center is a cozy and calming classroom at the end of the long hallway. Upon entering, I was greeted by the warm and welcoming Christel Autuori, certified integrative Health Coach and Holistic Stress management instructor. It doesn’t stop there—Christel is a Registered Dental Hygienist and Yoga Teacher as well.
After I took a seat next to the windowsill full of jade plants and the luminous salt rock lamp, Christel filled her oil diffuser, and soon the room was filled with the scent of “On Guard Oils”. Cinnamon, clove, and eucalyptus–a mix of immune boosting and energizing aromas. Every now and then, Christel will slip in a few drops of oregano oil–a powerful cleansing agent. “It’s supposed to be a blend of calming oils, but sometimes it smells like pizza,” Christel said with a laugh. One could tell by her demeanor and charismatic attitude she cares deeply for what she does. She explained how oils have helped with sickness for hundreds of years, and even took the name of “thieves oil,” due to the fact that robbers would douse themselves in essential oils, steal from the seriously ill during the time of the bubonic plague, yet not contract any sort of bacterial infection or sickness.
Whether it be a new school semester fog, an extremely early start to finals week (no but really—you can never be too early), or every day life, stress levels can be at an all time high for students and professors. Regardless of exams, stress can be caused due to numerous factors, and seeing as some of us do not pay close attention to the levels of mental and emotion strain we are under, we are unaware of just how much of an impact it has on us. That is where Christel comes to the rescue. The Holistic Health Center is packed with tension taming activities, secluded rooms for meditation or deep relaxation, and of course, what drew me in: chocolate therapy.
The objective is mindfulness—pay close attention to every aspect of what you are doing. From unwrapping the delicately wrapped foil, to tuning into the senses used to savor with your taste buds. Instead of chowing down immediately, recognize the flavor of the chocolate and the experience of taste. Being alert and aware of the steps of this process is what is important. People tend to appreciate minuscule details more when focused on the procedure itself. Day by day, so many activities are done so mindlessly, but once particular attention is paid to an unfamiliar action, a new perspective is brought to light. You can try this yourself at home too with numerous different sweets, using different senses. The goal is to become more focused on mindfulness—and these therapeutic techniques just may help you through a time of distress.
If you want to try different forms of meditation besides chocolate therapy, Christel has other quizzes you can take online to gauge on what kind of practices you should look into trying. The solution to your worries could be right at your fingertips, or if you’re letting stress get the best of you—as Christel signs off in her emails—“take life one breath at a time.”