Looking gaunt? Not sleeping properly? A 2013 survey revealed that 65% of university students report suffering from stress. But there are excellent support systems in place. From puppy parties to screaming sessions, these are some of our favourite stress busters…
This year Bristol University became famous for its puppy parties. Research indicates that, when you’re feeling stressed, playing with a dog can lower blood pressure and raise levels of serotonin and dopamine. You end up feeling a lot calmer. When given the chance to play in the puppy rooms, 600 students signed up.
In fact, dogs are used as stress busters across the country. The charity Pets As Therapy brings temperament-tested dogs and cats to places where people are feeling a little vulnerable – hospices, say, or universities. If you’re not lucky to have real animals, a Japanese study suggests that just looking at pictures of puppies and kittens improves concentration levels and performance. Just be careful not to turn into Dolores Umbridge.
Never mind dogs and cats, some universities have taken animal therapy to a whole new level. In exam term last year, Bath Spa introduced a petting zoo with activities like stroking goats and feeding ducks. Leicester went even further, with a cow, geese, ducks, chickens and a Shetland pony.
But there’s a darker side to these petting zoos. Animal welfare groups have suggested that, while the students de-stress, the animals themselves might be getting very anxious. So go easy on those goats.
Letting it all out
This is an American one. Apparently, as exams draw near, students take part in screaming sessions. They release their angst in one fell shriek. If you’d rather not scream in halls (you might get some weird looks), then swearing is another option. Research shows that using foul language is an effective way of increasing tolerance of pain (again, it’s probably best not to do it too much in front of your new-found friends).
In another American university, students are allowed to dance in the library twice a night during finals. This is probably the most fun exercise you can do, but anything to keep yourself moving will be an effective stress buster. The NHS says so – and it also points out how dramatically exercise reduces your risk of serious illnesses. If you’re struggling to go out jogging, the article might be the motivation you need.
Bubbles and balls
The University of Plymouth is attempting to get hold of an adult ball pool for 50 adults at a time. There’s nothing like those coloured plastic balls to cheer everyone up. Another effective way to unwind is to pop bubble wrap (and it’s probably a lot cheaper than a ball pool). Studies suggest that one minute popping bubble wrap relieves as much stress as a half-hour massage. And you don’t need a willing masseur to do it.
If you’re a fan of dark chocolate, you’re in for a treat. Dark chocolate (sadly not milk or white) has been shown to boost mood levels with a rise in serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. Eating 1.4 ounces a day reduces the stress hormone cortisol. So if you’re having a bad day, pop round to the shop and get munching.
You’ll be feeling ecstatic in no time!
Written by Bryony Glover