StressFest 2013 relieves student anxieties with massages, pets and free food


Pearce Murphy

Radio Television Film and psychology senior Sean Minns and English freshman Bryna Herskowitz pet Angel, a Therapy Pet Pal, during Stressfest Wednesday afternoon. StressFest provided students with other stress-relieving activities such as massages and acupuncture.

Alexandra Dubinsky

Rain did not keep the stress relief cruise from boarding passengers inside Gregory Gym on Wednesday afternoon at an annual event hosted by the Counseling and Mental Health Center.

StressFest 2013 invited all members of the University community to alleviate stress before the end of the semester by providing students with strategies and resources to manage anxiety.

Laura Ebady, a psychologist and outreach coordinator for the center, said the event is in its 16th year and is traditionally known for its tropical cruise theme.

“We’ve always done this in part to give students a sense of getting away from it all and giving them a break from things,” Ebady said. “We have different tables here where students can get a quick break like getting a chair massage or playing with therapy dogs.”

Therapeutic dogs were brought from Therapy Pet Pals of Texas, a volunteer organization that specializes in pet therapy and helping residents of nursing homes.

According to the Wellness Network, a campus-wide coalition committed to creating a healthy campus culture, 55 percent of UT students report experiencing more than average stress or tremendous stress within the past 12 months.

Jessica Hughes Wagner, manager of University Health Services, said she attributes the excess of stress to perfection and how students can sometimes take drugs to see who can study the longest.

“It seems to be a trend level of perfection that students hold themselves to,” Wagner said. “A lot of the work I do is study drug use and an increase in that seems to indicate more competitiveness and a perfectionism that isn’t realistic.”

Besides massages and therapy dogs, StressFest featured live music, fortune telling and sex trivia as well as free t-shirts, food and candy to help alleviate any anxiety associated with finals. Jane Bost, the associate director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said the purpose of the event is to expose students to different departments that help to manage stress effectively.

“The goal is not to eliminate stress but find ways to manage it,” Bost said. “Life is too fluid to feel like you can reach a perfect level, but being mindful and aware and taking steps to take care of yourself are all a part of the process.”

Health promotion junior Amber Pittz said she was glad she noticed the event after passing by on her way to class.

“So far I’m pretty happy,” Pittz said. “I got a free snow cone and a free t-shirt. And who doesn’t like to pet a dog?”

Printed on Thursday, April 11, 2013 as Escape from reality