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'Stress Less' makes finals week a favorite at University of Montana
University of Montana

'Stress Less' makes finals week a favorite at University of Montana

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Abby wagged her little tail as Nick LeTang kneeled to give the pup a scratch.

The law student at the University of Montana swings through the University Center almost every day, and as a result, he doesn't miss out on "Stress Less," a student wellness event put on by the Curry Health Center.

There on Tuesday, students drank calming tea, sat for chair massages, ate tiny bran and berry muffins, and yes, they patted friendly dogs.

"Thank you," LeTang said to the dog owner and Curry psychologist. "It's very nice that you come here and do that for us."

At the end of the semester, students studying for finals and completing projects were pleased for the dose of relaxation during the last busy days of school. The offerings to reduce stress were all free for students, who pay health fees at UM.

LeTang, who had just finished an oral argument practice, would probably have a snack, and he was grateful for the time with Abby, a cheerful wirehaired dachshund.

In the course of an hour, students consistently referred to the week as their "favorite" and the "best" of the school year.

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Curry has been hosting the program for 11 years or so, said Brent Hildebrand, health promotion specialist. The program reaches some 600 to 700 students a day in the second-to-last week of school, he said while handing out a tube of bubbles and a wand to one student.

"You can't be stressed if you're blowing bubbles," Hildebrand said.

Garrett Kelly, an art major and recipient of the bubbles, agreed, although he was more sleep-deprived than stressed. He had three projects due Tuesday, and he was definitely in need of a massage.

"I always come down to get a free massage. It really helps," Kelly said.

At one table, students could choose from a selection of teas, and at another table, they could take vials of oils, peppermint and orange for a pick-me-up, lavender for relaxation.

At another station, Michelle Packert worked on a puzzle. The scene depicted a tropical vacation, probably the opposite of her life in the moment.

Packert is taking a full load of credits, she is working full time and she is raising a 5-year-old child, albeit with help from her significant other. The puzzle took her mind off the matters in her life that induce stress while she waited her turn for a chair massage. 

"It's my favorite week of the whole semester. It's kind of a break from school," Packert said.

At the dog station, Trevor Cummings walked past with lunch in his hand and film projects in his head. He leaned over to pet Jubilee, a calm golden retriever.

"She'd be happy to share your chicken salad with you," said Cheryl Van Denburg, dog owner and Curry psychologist.

By 11:30 a.m., some 68 people had stopped to pet a dog, said Van Denburg, who had both Jubilee and Abby certified as "pet partners."

Cummings was spending the week working on a large animation project, a short, a couple of Photoshop assignments and probably more.

He's a pet owner himself, and he appreciated the chance to hang out ever so briefly with a dog at the UC during "Stress Less."

"I love it. It's my favorite part of finals week," Cummings said.

"Stress Less" will be at the UC on Wednesday, the Payne Family Native American Center on Thursday, and Missoula College on Friday.

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