Horses with sneakers—and other finals week stress relief

Schools bring in therapy animals, snacks, bubble wrap, and more

Anxiety seems to be a given in today's colleges and universities: if you're not stressed out, students think, you're not doing it right. 

But the pressure surrounding final exams, papers, and presentations can hurt student performance—and ultimately become a barrier to graduation.

In fact, the American College Health Association found in 2016 that out of 95,000 students nationwide:

  • Nearly 32% of students reported stress;
  • 23% said stress affected their performance; and
  • 17% were diagnosed or treated for anxiety in the past year.

Enter the midnight cookie breaks and therapy dogs.

Schools don't want their students to perform poorly (though some students might think otherwise), which is why staff are going great lengths to offer stress relief services for their students.

Call in the therapy dogs

This tried-and-true strategy continues to be popular on college campuses. University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) brought in comfort dogs on Wednesday to visit students. The University of Colorado Boulder also brings in dogs—their website promotes the event: "Do finals have you feeling like you're the underdog? Well, we have a solution that should put you back at the top of the pack."

The University of Southern California has taken the idea a step further by officially "hiring" a goldendoodle to serve as an official wellness dog at the university's Office of Wellness and Health Promotion. 

How do dogs actually help with stress?

…Or miniature horses

Roosevelt University is bringing in miniature therapy horses—dressed in sneakers— to its Chicago campus. Northwestern University also invited miniature therapy horses to campus this year.

That 'pop' is so satisfying

UIC invites students to enter a bubble-wrap room, where they're welcome to pop bubbles until their stress subsides.

Wichita State University has bubble-wrapped an entire wall on which students are encouraged to take out their frustrations. 

Color the stress away

Roosevelt University offers Play-Doh, coloring, and cookie decorating, and Northwestern offers Lego building and board games.

Shoreline Community College is inviting students to a session of the "marshmallow challenge" in which students try to build a tower out of marshmallows, dry spaghetti, and string. The activity has gained attention recently as a way to encourage creativity and teamwork.

Free food never hurts

Hunter College offers free coffee and cookies during finals week. And the University of Connecticut dining halls are hosting two weeks of special meals this year, including a holiday feast, cookie decorating, and dessert buffets.

How the University of Virginia helps students build resilience

Show students a magical time

Florida State University rolled out a whole calendar of Harry Potter-themed events this year, including:

  • Quidditch Ring Toss;
  • Harry Potter arts and crafts;
  • Lego Hogwarts castle-building; and
  • Harry Potter-themed snacks (such as pretzel wands).

(Hankins, "Student Union," VOA, 12/7; Jarvie, Calgary Herald, 12/6; Florida State University site, accessed 12/8; Shoreline Community College Website, 11/30; University of Chicago website, 11/9; Vivanco, Chicago Tribune, 12/1; Hunter College site, accessed 12/8; Zarra Aldrich, The Daily Campus, 12/7; Shoreline Community College site, accessed 12/8).

Why it's important to teach stress-management skills


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