Wellness Center stress relief programs return

As finals approach, the Wellness Center and the Marshall Student Center scheduled events to help students de-stress while studying. One of the events includes social time with puppies.

The Marshall Student Center (MSC) and Department of Wellness Education have teamed up to offer students plenty of opportunities to de-stress with final exams on the way.

One such event is Paws & Relax, scheduled for Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the USF Library. The event provides pet therapy dogs to help students “pause and relax” before finals. A collection of puppies will be outside the library for students to play with.

“Research shows that when humans interact with an animal, it decreases stress levels, it decreases heart rate, it decreases blood pressure and there are self-reported incidents of decrease in stress and anxiety and an increase in mood,” said Jennifer DiPrete, director of Wellness Education at USF.

Starting Wednesday, the MSC will be the “Marshall Study Center” through May 6. The MSC will be open until 3 a.m. to allow students another quiet place to study on campus at their convenience. In addition to extended hours, the MSC will offer discounts on food throughout finals week, study rooms and review sessions for last minute cramming.

Though studying is important, research shows taking breaks is just as essential to the retention of information. According to CampusMindWorks.org, stress can be good or bad. Stress is a result of hormones released to deal with a situation, but that can also lead to a lack of concentration.

“We want our students to take a break — allow themselves to take a break — and participate in any of our activities that we have available,” DiPrete said.

The Wellness Center is providing free seated chair massages by licensed professionals on May 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in MSC 3708. These professional massages supplement the massage chair program regularly available to students.

There will also be a “play zone” where students can color and play with Play-Doh — activities that give weary brains a break. Games and opportunities to win prizes will also be held throughout the MSC. According to the American Art Therapy Association, coloring is linked to exploring feelings and reducing stress.

DiPrete mentioned other strategies for coping with stress, including meditation, journaling and talking with friends.

“A little bit of stress is OK. It does allow us to kind of push ourselves in a way that maybe we didn’t think was possible and succeed,” DiPrete said.

Relaxing during finals week is essential, but DiPrete and the Wellness Center hope students take these practices into their lives beyond exams.

“Our ultimate goal is that (stress management) will become part of a larger routine that’s implemented, whether (students) are coming back as a student or graduating, that they will implement some sort of a stress management routine into their regular activities and daily living,” DiPrete said.