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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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A Planner with a Purpose

An SDSU researcher developed an anxiety reducing planner to help SDSU students combat stress.
By Chelsea Baer

Christina Holub entered the Zahn Innovation Challenge last spring dreaming of a planner focused on self-care tools and resources to help people balance their goals, health and daily life. Today that dream has become a reality called the Cogtoolz Planner.  
Holub is a research assistant professor in the Graduate School of Public Health, and core investigator at the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, a non-profit research institute within San Diego State University Research Foundation. 
Inspiration for the idea came from a loved one who suffered from anxiety. Holub earned a Ph.D in health behavior from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which helps her understand the science behind anxiety.
“Creating this planner has made me realize just how many students experience anxiety,” Holub said.
After entering the Zahn Innovation Challenge in March, Holub took first place in the social entrepreneurship category. At the time, she only had the idea for her product and needed help putting it into action.
Holub worked with the team at the Zahn Innovation Center over the summer to bring her idea to life. She also used the center’s resources to learn about developing business and financial models, shipping logistics, graphic design and marketing. As a co-working space for SDSU entrepreneurs, Holub said the Zahn Center is full of opportunities to get advice from others who are further along and who can share their experiences.
Cogtoolz is more than a planner; it is a place to organize thoughts, goals and lists. It is full of resources that help reduce anxiety and depression.

“The goal of this planner is to help students have well rounded goals and promote self-care,” Holub said.
Her expertise in health behavior inspired her to incorporate concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy, a treatment often used for anxiety, depression, and stress, into Cogtoolz.
The Cogtoolz Academic Planner can be purchased at the SDSU Bookstore for $20, or online. The first batch sold out in a week and the bookstore has re-stocked the planner twice. 

Features include thought tracking, which helps students organize their thoughts and identify thinking errors, that may be causing them unnecessary stress. A deep breathing exercise, inspired by techniques used at SDSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services, is also included in the planner.

By the Numbers 

According to the American College Health Association, 57 percent of students reported that they felt overwhelming anxiety in the last year and about 35 percent felt so depressed that it was difficult to function. Altogether, over 85 percent of students reported that they felt overwhelmed by all that they had to do. 

“It is never too late to adopt a new planner that can help balance your life” Holub said. “Most importantly, students should feel comfortable seeking help and using resources on campus.”