De-stress fest: a sure-fire way to stress less

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It’s that time of the year again. Once, twice, or even three times a year, students must face the end of term and prove what they’ve learned in that battle of wits that is last-minute assignments and prelude to exams. The UVic Student Ambassadors have done everything they can to make the penultimate week of classes as stress-free as possible. They called it the fifth annual De-Stress Fest—an extravaganza of events throughout the week designed to lower stress levels.

The events kicked off on Tuesday, Nov. 26, with free hot chocolate by the Petch Fountain. With the added enticement of cookies donated by UVic Food Services, the event made a popular turnout. Student Ambassador Celeste Barnes-Crouse calls it a “quick little giveaway to brighten people’s day.” The aim, she says, is to reach the many students cramming away in the library and offer them a little relief from their studies. The setup proved successful, and Barnes-Crouse estimates a healthy 300 to 600 people stopped by for free treats.

Later that afternoon, the SUB played host to a lively Zumba session led by Claire Handley and Adriana Tobon of Studio VZF fitness centre. Zumba, Handley explains, “is the most fun you will ever have working out.” The giddy grins throughout the room breathed truth into Handley’s words. A small gathering of a dozen workout-ready students filled the room with their enthusiasm once they get going.

Soon, the Michèle Pujol Room became a Latin-based dance party, with a fresh, modern twist, and everyone mastered their own personal brand of hip-shaking to “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” In this makeshift Zumba studio, imperfection was embraced. “You don’t have to be someone who knows how to dance or has any sense of rhythm,” Handley says. “All you do is come and do the class the way you feel comfortable moving to the music.” This may just be an ideal option to counter-act the strict expectations of university life.

Wednesday, Nov. 27, offered a more creative outlet, with a crafty make-your-own stress ball table in the morning and splatter painting in the afternoon. These events show that even taking five minutes to funnel sand into a balloon or throw paint at blank paper might be the difference between a good and bad day. Just like Zumba, the objective isn’t to create a masterpiece; it’s to offer one more option to relieve stress.

By far the biggest crowd-pleaser of the week was Thursday’s Puppy Playtime. The volunteers at Pacific Animal Therapy Society (PATS) were on-hand with over a dozen pooches to take every last ounce of stress away. It was a much larger event than previous years; the conference room was packed with students, and boasted a busy lineup at the door. Circles formed around each dog as everyone fawned over the most adorable pup. An eight-month-old Basset Hound named Ian flopped back against the floor as he received a perfect belly rub, while a tiny Pomeranian named Mitzy ran eager circles before standing on her hind legs for a treat. The dogs were all well-behaved, and with good reason: every one of them had been hand-picked for this very occasion. PATS volunteers and their pets attend events like the De-Stress Fest with the intent of providing therapy through human-animal contact. And with that many dogs in one room, helping to see the De-Stress Fest to a close, it’s no wonder students agree that it was so much fun.

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