PAWS for Mental Health

Brianna Mayhair, News Writer

Finals getting you down, stressed out from all that studying and appreciate dogs? Then the Wellness Center at the University of North Dakota has got your back! On Wednesday, December 11 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. the Wellness Center is hosting their De-Stress Fest. Come pet some fluffy therapy dogs while relaxing and playing games to help combat stress. 

Health Promotion Coordinator Sonia Doulamis explained how the event is organized and why taking breaks from studying is important to your mental health. 

“All the therapy dogs all come from the community,” Doulamis said. “All the handlers are volunteers and we are really grateful because they are taking the time out of their day to help be a part of this event. It would not be the same without them. We usually have four to six therapy dogs during our event to help the dogs not become overwhelmed. All the dogs are properly trained for this event, but we just ask you ask the handlers before petting them.”

Dogs are in the program because research has shown that interacting with them decreases stress in multiple ways. 

“By having the dogs and being able to interact with them helps lower blood pressure, releases the hormone oxytocin which helps individuals feel calm and distracts them from studying or other troubles for a short time.” Doulamis said. 

Students are studying a great deal more than usual around this time, but taking breaks and resting is very important. 

“Taking breaks help you clear your head from a physical aspect,” Doulamis said. “Practicing yoga, going for a run, going to the gym or just simply getting up and taking a short walk away from your books has shown that students that take breaks end up performing better because they let their bodies reset compared to someone who studies constantly and doesn’t take many breaks or any at all. Everyone takes breaks in different ways, but it is important to take one in whatever way you find best.”

Taking breaks is important, but the key is to recognize when you should be taking breaks. 

“Everyone is different,” Doulamis said. “Personally, I know many people who set alarms on their phones and studied for a couple hours and took 15-30-minute breaks and others that study around an hour and take 10-minute breaks. The key is to not take too long of a break or else the motivation to study is lost. It is also helpful to switch subjects after studying one for a couple hours to help stay focused when studying.”

Finals can be stressful for students as well as faculty members since the holidays are right around the corner. Controlling stress levels is important not just for students, but for the staff members on campus. 

“A lot of people tend to get overwhelmed with finals with the end of the semester getting really busy and that holds true for anybody,” Doulamis said. “Whether you are a student, or you work full-time, people that might not have as much stress should be mindful of other people’s stress and how they are acting. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and make sure they are handling their stress in a healthy way.”

If you or anyone you know may be having problems with stress or any other issues, contact the University Counseling Center at 701.777.2127. Office hours are Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Any questions concerning PAWS for Mental Health email Sonia Doulamis at [email protected].