The expert advice to answer your most pressing questions. This month, Emily Tuschhoff, the health education coordinator at Vandal Health Education at the University of Idaho, shares advice on the school’s De-Stress Fest, which aids students during finals.
How did the idea for the De-Stress Fest come about?
ET: The wellness program has been offering free yoga for several years. Four semesters ago Vandal Health Education and Campus Rec partnered to offer a more comprehensive set of de-stress events to address the importance of taking a break during finals and studying.
What are the benefits to students?
ET: Taking a break during a potentially high-stress time allows students to come back to their studies refreshed and rejuvenated. Throughout the semester, the Counseling & Testing Center and Vandal Health Education conduct programming to help students manage their stress. This week of events is meant to be complementary to that education and provide events that enable students to take a quick breather, laugh, exercise or grab a healthy snack, giving them the fuel they need to finish out the semester strong.
ET: Last semester a student emailed me saying, “I just want to thank you guys for setting up the stress booth for finals. I haven’t gone to any events, but some of the girls there made stress balloons filled with sand, and it literally has changed my whole finals experience. I realize that is kind of weird, but it was such a nice gesture, and the stress balloon is really helping my sanity at this point. Thanks guys!”
When offering stress balls or a moment to read a funny joke at our health huts, students express their gratitude. Also, we have great attendance at each event indicating that students enjoy the opportunities to take a break. Pause for Paws is the most heavily attended “Daytime Distraction” event of the semester. Yoga classes are more full during this week, and there is always a line for the complimentary massages. This semester, we’ve noticed increased attendance at all of our events, and this may be due to students knowing that we will be offering these programs each semester during dead week.
What advice could you give to other schools interested in putting on a de-stress event?
ET: We’ve learned over the years to be sure to follow feedback from students. We’ve tried a few other ideas over the semesters and they were not as well-received as our “signature events” that we offer every semester. Partnering is also important for an event like this. Each department already had de-stress events going on during this week, so when we worked together, we were able to put on a fairly large programming week with little additional work or cost. The collaboration allows for a more wide-spread program across campus. Getting the word out is also important. At each event during the week, we market the entire week’s programs. Other ways we’ve marketed include: a blurb in the parent newsletter, an up-to-date website, articles in the student newspaper, social media, flyers to living groups on campus, table tents in the Commons and word of mouth from students involved in each department.