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A Stress-Less Week for the Stressful Student

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Brilynn Janckila works hard to stay ahead of end-of-semester stress.

Thanks to the Lake Superior Zoo, the Zoomobile is bringing animals inside the Library for Stress-Less Week.

Petting bunnies can be relaxing.
Chinchillas have soft, beautiful fur.
Baby hedgehogs need at least 30 minutes of holding each day.

UMD's Innovative Programs Bring Relief at the Semester's End

Finals week comes with a series of trials and tribulations for UMD students. The staff in the Kathryn A. Martin Library are helping to help combat finals-week worry with Stress-Less Week from Dec. 9 -13, 2013.

New stress-relief events

There are two new events this year, “Get Crafty” and a visit from the Lake Superior Zoo’s Zoomobile.

“Get Crafty” was added to the roster after a similar event was particularly well-received during the fall Bulldog Welcome Week. The library plans to have easy, fun projects available on Wednesday, Dec. 11 for students to complete quickly. Reference librarian and event coordinator Kim Pittman believes that, “Short study breaks will help students feel calmer and more energized as they prepare for finals.”

Stress-Less Week organizers, including reference librarian Gabriel Gardner and the library's communications team, wanted fall-semester attendees to interact with animals to relieve stress. This year, the Lake Superior Zoo’s Zoomobile will be brought in on Thursday, Dec. 12 to fill that void. “We heard about Zoomobiles from multiple library staff members, including a student worker who volunteers at the zoo,” Pittman explained. “The zoo frequently sends Zoomobiles to schools and other local organizations, and they are excited about the opportunity to be part of UMD's Stress-less Week.”

This year students will be able to handle cute, fuzzy animals including a hedgehog, a bunny, and a chinchilla. Volunteers from the zoo will answer questions about the animals, and make sure the animals don’t get too overwhelmed by all the student attention.

Old favorites return

“We’ve had significant participation in all things coffee-related,” Pittman said. “Last year, 1,109 students participated in our coffee-bean counting contest. The winning student, who was only two beans away from guessing the correct number, received a Dining Services gift card... which she presumably used to buy more coffee.” This year, Champ will be on hand Monday, Dec. 9 and Friday, Dec. 13 to help the library dispense coffee to stressed-out students in need.

Students looking for a less caffeinated event may find that they prefer Tuesday’s offering of free chair massages. Kim Pittman has found it to be one of the most time-effective ways to relieve stress. “Students seem especially impacted by the massage event. They walk into the room looking tense and stressed, and leave much calmer after a five-minute chair massage.”

The event provides students with more tools to combat stress than just a short massage. “Our massage therapist, Nancy Schwerdt is very friendly and reassuring,” Pittman elaborated. “In addition to massages, she also gives students advice about breathing exercises they can do to manage stress, and tips about changing their posture to avoid feeling so much tension.” Schwerdt is from the Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP) and she also encourages students to reduce stress by taking advantage of the RSOP facilities and programs to get exercise.

Using everything available to you

The library has advice for students who are unable to make it to any Stress-Less Week events. “Relax, but not too much." Pittman said. "You’ll be able to study more effectively if you take regular breaks and focus on a single subject for brief chunks of time, rather than cramming for hours on end. Taking a little time to unwind will help you focus and study more effectively."

Pittman had one additional, invaluable piece of advice for UMD students. "Utilize campus services to help you manage stress and prepare for finals." Students with test anxiety issues can set up an appointment with a Health Services counselor before finals week to get some support. "Struggling students should meet with a tutor, their instructor or their teaching assistant sooner than later." There are so many people on campus who can help you manage stress; all you have to do is ask.”


Health Services created the original Stress-less Week, but the events have been coordinated by the library since 2012. Health Services continues to help the library promote Stress-less Week, and sponsors the spring semester event Pet Away Stress. The library coordinates and plans the rest of the events.

Written by Zach Lunderberg, November 2013

UMD News Features | News Releases
UMD News Feature editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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