Students take a social study break

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Charity Chukwu and Amber Olivas spar in an inflatable ring on Gregory Gym Plaza at an event hosted by the Texas Sports Committee to help students reduce stress during the final week of classes.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

With finals far from her thoughts, Charity Chukwu dodged a joust from Amber Olivas and rushed forward to knock her opponent from her pedestal. She paused, caught her breath and stood in victory as her opponent lay in defeat.

Journalism sophomore Chukwu and audiology senior Olivas were two of several students who sparred with inflatable double-ended bludgeons in a portable ring at SEC Showdown, an event hosted by the Texas Sports Committee at Gregory Gym plaza Tuesday.

Omar Fuentes, committee chairman and management and information systems junior, said the organization wanted to offer students a chance to relieve the stress that arrives along with finals.

“We were looking for something that would appeal to students during this stressful week,” Fuentes said.

There were no rules of battle as students entered the ring, Fuentes said. Some left the bludgeons alone and spent a few minutes bouncing in the ring, while others took full advantage of the opportunity to take out their frustrations with finals on their opponent.

“It was fun,” Olivas said after her match with Chukwu. “I got to not think about my tests as I as tried to take down the other person.”

Chukwu said the showdown was a relief from working on final assignments in classes.

“It was definitely a nice break from writing papers,” Chukwu said.

John Bartholomew, professor of kinesiology and health education, said the session could be a beneficial form of stress relief.

“There is always a risk that these types of battles can become too competitive and increase anger or frustration, but barring that I would expect this to be a fun way to increase activity and reduce stress,” Bartholomew said.

He said many factors contributed to increased stress in students during finals week.

“The stress of finals week is often compounded by changes in routine as students try to meet the demands of multiple classes,” Bartholomew said. “Many students stop exercising or sleep less to find additional time. They often eat more junk food or ingest lots of caffeine. In fact, many do all four.

Each of these behaviors can serve to increase the stress of the moment and, in turn, undermine their performance on exams. A good stress-management strategy can do much to make finals week more manageable.”

Students can benefit from exercise sessions, Bartholomew said.

“Even a short, five minute walk has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress,” he said.

Jane Bost, associate director of UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, said the center sees many students who are stressed during finals and recommended students take advantage of the Stress Recess webpage on the center’s website for suggestions to relax. Students can also visit the CMHC center to visit the MindBody Lab, a lab equipped with interactive tools to reduce stress, Bost said.

In addition, Bost said the center offers a 24-hour counseling line and recommends students visit Sanger Learning Center to strategize solutions for coping with academic pressure.

Most importantly, students should remember to take care of basic health needs, Bost said.

“It goes back to self-care,” she said. “Sleep is extremely important. Exercise is important. Good nutrition is vital, and social support is necessary.”

Printed on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 as: Students take rigorous study break