Puppies, aromatherapy, nap pods: It’s all stress relief for students

Ish Singh, above, a University of Miami senior and student government vice president, unveiled a 'napping pod' purchased last year to help students relax.
Ish Singh, above, a University of Miami senior and student government vice president, unveiled a 'napping pod' purchased last year to help students relax. The Miami Herald

Puppies, hammocks and free food.

That’s what University of Miami student body president Vikesh Patel says are the most popular ways for his fellow students to de-stress, especially during finals week.

It’s a chance for fun, despite all the tests.

“College is a transition from childhood to adulthood,” Patel said. “You can’t forget about having fun.”

With concerns about pressure from exams and homework, schools across the country are hosting free activities for students to de-stress and relax. This includes the opportunity to cuddle with a cute and fluffy animal — often a puppy, or sometimes a baby goat.

That’s why at UM, student fees go toward food trucks, hammocks strung across the campus lawn, and visiting dogs from the Humane Society, all for students to enjoy.

And Patel said the chance for academic relief means exam week is a little less unpleasant for students.

“Students love that time of the year, they can’t wait for finals because of the hammocks,” he said. “And they absolutely run out to the green when they hear there’s puppies on the green.”

At FIU, health educator Camila Pham said the free 10-minute massages offered by the school are the most popular option. Aromatherapy has also become a hit, she said, so much so that the healthy living program now offers classes to teach people how to make their own oils.

“Our students really, really seem like they appreciate it,” she said.

The stress relief activities have also made their way down to the elementary school level, with funding for yoga taking priority over STEM classes in one California school district, according to the Coast News Group.

Alvin Gainey, the president of the Miami-Dade Parent Teacher Association, said the organization is working to arrange discount tickets to Miami Heat games for families and outdoor picnics and field days for families.

“We realize we spend a lot of time testing our children, and we believe they deserve an outlet to think about things away from testing and even school in general to keep the balance,” he said.

He said the state PTA even passed a resolution to bring attention to students’ need to get a full night of sleep, and hopes that this may eventually lead to later starting times for high school students.

At UM, there are already efforts to help students get as much sleep as they can.

Under the Sleepy Canes section of the school website, the school not only provides a Prezi presentation with facts about sleep, but a detailed map with the 11 best places to sleep on campus. This includes rocking chairs, courtyard benches and choice spots of grass.

And for those who need a more formal sleep setting, the school splurged on two $9,000 napping pods last year — which are somewhat common campus investments.

While I couldn’t take part in any of the relaxation activities, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try the napping pod in the university’s student center.

The napping pod itself seems like something out of a futuristic science fiction movie — a sleek chair with a visor that gets pulled around so the user is in semi-darkness. With the automated voice announcing that the napping pod is activated and ethereal piano music, the only thing missing is a dramatic view of the galaxy stars.

Personally, I was too distracted (and confused) by all the buttons on the pod to ever try to fall asleep. But, I definitely enjoyed the massage feature, and if actually tired, probably could fall asleep in the pod.

But, as the UM website says, if the napping pod doesn’t do the trick, there’s always the grass. Or a library chair.