EDMONTON – December can be a very stressful time of the year, especially for students dealing with the pressure of final exams, on top of the stress already associated with the holidays.
So for the first time ever, the University of Alberta Health and Wellness team has brought in “puppy therapy” to help students through this hectic time. It’s part of a growing trend in universities across the country.
The cute and cuddly pups paying U of A students a visit on Wednesday were professionals from Chimo Animal Assisted Therapy. And they seemed to be doing the trick, putting smiles on a lot of students’ faces.
For Alia Schamehorn, who has been worried about having to get a couple of her exams deferred, the canines brought a sense of comfort.
“Puppies are just really happy, friendly, relax you, and reassure you that everything’s going to be okay,” she says. “Just gives you a better feeling throughout the entire day.”
Dr. Robin Everall says that even a short amount of stress relief can have a long-term impact.
“Stress builds up over time, and it accumulates. That impacts how we function more and more severely over the course of time, so releasing stress and taking care of ourselves is a critically important thing, especially in a very complex, demanding kind of environment that we live in.”
Contact with animals, even for as little as 30 seconds, can shift people’s focus and relax them, as well as trigger other changes in the human body, Dr. Everall explains.
“We know that the blood pressure goes down, heart rate changes, people’s breathing changes.”
Dr. Everall offers some tips for de-stressing such as physical exercise (including yoga), reading, going for a walk, or meeting with a friend.
“There’s not one size fits all,” she says, though. “Each person has to find what works for them.”
Students at the U of A can take part in more pooch therapy in the Students’ Union Building (SUB) Thursday evening from 5-7 p.m., and again Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Humanities Fishbowl. Business students will also be able to visit with one of the puppies again on Friday from 11-12 in their undergrad student office.
The pups will be available again next week, and there are plans to bring them back in the new year as well.