Animal therapy brings stress relief to students

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As the fall semester comes to a close, students begin looking forward to traveling home and celebrating Christmas with their families. There is only one thing standing in between students and their Christmas vacations, and it’s a big stressor – final exams.

From kittens to Zumba, Lipscomb University faculty, staff and even students, are providing several therapeutic activities to help students combat the stress and pressure of finals week.

The Lipscomb University Counseling Center is offering a chance for students to play with kittens from the Williamson County Animal Shelter. On Thursday, Dec. 6, more popularly known as “dead day,” students can come to the Student Activity Center’s basketball court from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to cuddle and play with the kittens.

“Scientifically speaking, playing or cuddling with an animal can increase levels of dopamine and oxytocin in the brain leading the individual to feel happier or more at peace,” said Andrea Mills, assistant director of the counseling center. “Some studies have even shown an increased life expectancy from pet ownership.”

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After snuggling a kitten, head over to the Beaman Library to get some last-minute studying in while also petting a therapy dog. There will be three therapy dogs visiting in the library from 9 a.m.-noon and again from 1-3 p.m. during its Stress Less Study Day” On Thursday.

Once you get your fill playing and petting the therapy dogs, grab a snack to help you regain your focus and fuel your studying. The library will have free snacks from 1-4 p.m. for students to enjoy.

Along with assisting students in last minute research projects, the librarians are also providing puzzles or coloring page every day during the entire finals week to help students unwind.

Students have also joined in to find ways to combat finals week stress. Lisa Moser, a senior Bible major, has hosted a Zumbathon in the SAC during finals week for the past few semesters.

Students who enjoy physical activity as a means for relieving stress are encouraged to join the Zumbathon on Thursday from 2- 4 p.m. in the SAC’s group fitness studio. The event is free and open to all students. Moser said students are welcome to come and go as they please or stay the whole time.

“The instructor changes for every song, so you get a wider variety of songs and dances than you would from just going to one instructor's class,” said Moser. “Dancing is my favorite way to relieve stress, and it's the most fun form of exercise. I always feel happier and more relaxed after Zumba, and I'm ready to get back to studying after taking a dance break.”

Mills said she understands how easy it is to become overwhelmed with school work, social clubs, extracurriculars, jobs, and all the other activities that students juggle. Mills, and other professionals from the counseling center, work to ensure they offer helpful ways to handle the feeling of stress.

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Some other practical ways to reduce anxiety as the semester winds down include designating time to participate in activities outside of school, work and finals, and treating or rewarding yourself after achieving a goal or large task, she said.

For more information about the counseling center, click here.

For more tips and tricks for maintaining mental health, click here.