Each semester during the last week of classes, students who are trying to prepare for their final exams or projects have a big distraction: stress. Mason celebrates DeStress Fest for that entire week, offering students a wide variety of events they can choose from to relieve stress. This semester, DeStress Fest will happen from Monday, December 5th through Sunday, December 11th!
By: Whitney Hopler, Writer-in-Residence, GMU Center for the Advancement of Well-Being
Each semester during the last week of classes, students who are trying to prepare for their final exams or projects have a big distraction: stress. Mason celebrates DeStress Fest for that entire week, offering students a wide variety of events they can choose from to relieve stress. This semester, DeStress Fest will happen from Monday, December 5th through Sunday, December 11th. Events range from yoga, swing dancing, and walking a labyrinth to painting, coloring, and playing with Legos.
“Students are constantly feeling the pressure during this time and it often feels as though every second of your life is consumed by your courses,” said Shelby Waugh, Graduate Assistant for Programming in the Office of Student Involvement, who helped plan DeStress Fest. “Taking the time to take a break and a breather puts a little fun back into your day, takes your mind off your workload, and gives you the time to come back to that assignment or studying for that test refreshed and renewed. Whether you go to an event for 10 minutes, an hour, or the whole time frame, there will be value in it for sure.”
Ashley Whimpey, a junior majoring in Communication who is also a yoga teacher, said that participating in DeStress Fest can help students in three important ways: “It helps students keep some semblance of a schedule when it’s all too easy to cave into late nights, late mornings, poor nutrition, and wallowing in stress. Yoga provides a space to take care of your body and remember there is more than just your mind! The encouragement of other practitioners makes for some social support – which is integral to well-being.”
“It’s easy to get worn out by stress near the end of a semester,” Whimpey said, “but being intentional about relieving stress helps recharge. My own well-being often feels like this little golden pool of energy I’m expending. It’s like living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ during a tough semester where a single chance to gather some more energy only occasionally lasts long enough – assuming I am keeping on top of keeping up with myself. Giving some extra space to gather more of my resources makes me my best self and then I do my best, instead of brining my Frazzled Finals Self into an exam I am actually ready for.”
Many different organizations help organize DeStress Fest, said Waugh, producing many popular events, such as the DeStress Lounge offered by LEAD and the late night snack carts presented by Student Government. “It is comforting and rewarding to see the amount of effort the campus as a whole puts into making this DeStress Fest week a reality for the students because it is evident when you attend one of these events how it impacts a student’s day,” she said.
Taking a purposeful approach to managing stress can put stressful moments in the proper perspective and empower students to finish the semester strong, said Whimpey, who leads Mandala, a student well-being club, on campus. “Once students really hit a good rhythm and have some self-confidence, or can step back and see it’s just a small moment in the grand scheme of their lives, you can almost physically see a lightening in their shoulders and eyes. They give better presentations, keep their cool during an exam, and still have a little time for end of semester farewells with their friends.”