Around finals time, most students prepare for long nights in the library, heavy doses of caffeine and frequent trips to the vending machine. While this may be a recipe for successful last-minute studying, it takes a toll on students’ psyches. Stress overload doesn’t just leave students feeling frazzled; it can have emotional, physical, and psychological consequences. In order to alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding finals, many schools plan fun activities or workshops on stress management, offering much-needed needed breaks so that students can refocus and refresh their minds before getting back to work.
With most students in the thick of finals (or dreading their upcoming arrival), NerdScholar has compiled a list of our favorite finals stress relievers. From poker games to dog therapy, schools have gotten creative to make exams more bearable for their hard-working students.
University of Massachusetts, Lowell — Stress Relief Day
The University of Massachusetts, Lowell devotes a day to stress relief. This year it falls on May 2, and will include a variety of stress-free activities. Says Tracy Moore, the university’s assistant director of health education and promotion, “From activities such as potting plants to keep on their desks while they study to petting therapy dogs that often are a substitute for their pets at home, activities during UMass Lowell’s annual Stress Relief Day are designed to relax students so they get off to a great start and stay focused and centered throughout finals week.” The day has a fair-like atmosphere, with arts and crafts, massages and fitness activities. Moore adds that nothing electronic is allowed at Stress Relief Day—including cell phones and laptops—in an effort to get students to slow down.
Montana State University — Paws to De-Stress
A happy, tail-wagging dog can soothe even the most maxed-out student, which is why Montana State started its Paws to De-Stress program. The program periodically brings a group of dogs to the Renne Library for students to play with and pet. (The dogs and their owners must complete a one-day workshop to certify the dogs as Intermountain Therapy Animals.) Becky Roeder, who works in the office of admissions, brought her 5-year-old Havanese, named Dolly, to the library for the second year. “Last year, nearly 270 students loved on Dolly in just two hours during finals,” Roeder says. “Students just flock to play with the dogs and get a break from their studies.” Jordan Toles, a sophomore from Roswell, N.M., says, “I love the dogs and this is a great de-stressor for me. I study in the library and it is awesome to take periodic breaks and visit the dogs.”
St. Bonaventure University — Brain Blessing
St. Bonaventure, a Catholic-affiliated university located in upstate New York, holds an annual Blessing of the Brains prayer service to instill a sense of peace before students before they begin their exams. This year’s service will occur on May 1. “What is special about this event is that it invites all students on campus to come together in prayer for a successful end to the semester,” says student Brianna Wilson. “It’s a great time to be with friends, take a break from the studying, and realize that all the work we have done for the past 15 weeks has brought us to this point.” The executive director of university ministries, Fr. Francis Di Spigno, O.F.M., says, “The simple candlelight prayer service is our way to help slow down the cycle of anxiety that often accompanies final exams. We don’t pray that God give them the answers, but that God allows each student to fully realize the knowledge that they have learned.”
Northwest Missouri State University — Stress Less Fest
Northwest Missouri’s Stress Less Fest, scheduled this year for April 28, includes yoga, karaoke, massages, free food, therapy dogs, finger-painting and games. “I think it is an important event to have on campus to not only help students relieve current stress, but to also teach them how to prevent or relieve stress in the future,” says Jennifer Kennymore, health educator for wellness services at the university. “I think this event makes Northwest unique because it is a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing stress among college students. We cover social, intellectual, emotional and physical wellness in what we do and I haven’t heard of many other campuses who incorporate all of those into their stress-relieving events.” Chelsey Clark, a Northwest student, adds, “The Stress Less Fest is one of the best opportunities students can use to help them not go crazy during finals. It really does provide an atmosphere of stress-free environment.”
University of Texas, Houston — Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament
Students here participated this month in a Texas Hold ’Em tournament, complete with prize-winning poker chips and trophies. “Students at the University of Houston took a break from their studies and took to the tables (poker tables, that is) at the UC Games Room,” says William Schwehr, assistant director in leisure services. “A total of 27 participants participated in a No Limits/Texas Hold ’Em tournament. Entry was free and fun was had by all.” Kenny Loveall, a student supervisor, said that “playing Texas Hold ’Em is a great way to relieve the stresses of studying and a way of making new friends.”
Image of student playing with dog courtesy of Shutterstock.