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Sorting out stress

From the reference desk, I have been observing how students deal with end-of-semester stress.  Some admit they are just barely on top of things, others are highly organized.  One night I helped a student find sources for a history paper on the Gulf War. She told me it was due the next morning but that she works better at the last minute.

Knowing your own comfort zone regarding deadlines and planning is a great way to manage stress. But what if that’s not enough? I was intrigued this week by a story in the Washington Post about George Mason University Law School’s “Puppy Day” during finals.  Pets are indeed an excellent help in relaxing. More on that in a moment.

Elgin Community College in Illinois hosts a “Stress-Free Zone,” which provides spa treatments, “back massages, cotton candy and popcorn, tea and hot chocolate, a coloring corner and a Play-Doh table.”  If your school doesn’t provide such amenities, the Independent Florida Alligator offers several DIY stress relief suggestions, including practicing breathing exercises, cooking something healthy, talking with a friend, working out, and laughing.

The hosts of  Books On the Nightstand, Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, recently asked listeners/readers to share their comfort books. Returning to a favorite genre, author, or childhood story can be a great stress reliever. My grandmother, a teacher and librarian who lived to be 96, swore by mysteries for a brief escape. Our mutual favorite, the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman, is perfect; the books are short, fast-paced, smartly plotted, and fascinating, with plenty of humor and nothing so scary as to disrupt your already limited sleep.

A new hobby of mine, Zentangle, is a simple way to de-stress artistically. You can check out patterns online (Google “tangle patterns”) or try how-to books. I recommend Totally Tangled or Yoga for Your Brain by Sandy Steen Bartholomew. In no time you’ll be making your own tangles. The results are very satisfying and mind clearing, and you could turn your stress-management into holiday gifts.

I’m enjoying a new app St. Nicholas brought my teens and I that teaches mindfulness meditation. I learned about buddhify at Action for Happiness, and it’s a well-organized and simple tool which I’m finding very helpful.  So far it’s one of the best entry-points to meditation I’ve tried.

Even if you’re not a student, December can feel pretty stressful. I combined two stress-relieving activities before work last night: I rested my hand on my purring cat while using buddhify. I fell asleep, which is not really the goal of meditation, but woke from the short nap feeling better. How are you sorting out your stress?


** Welcome Advent Conspiracy visitors! Please scroll down or take the link to “Making Merriment Meaningful,” and thanks for reading.


About Deb Baker

Deb Baker is a writer and insatiable reader, and library director at a community college. She muses about library issues at The Nocturnal Librarian ( and blogs about books, reading, and life at bookconscious ( Her family includes two awesome offspring, a husband, and the cat who adopted them. And a crazy rescue kitten.

One response to “Sorting out stress

  1. These are all really good ideas – I find Play-doh to be very relaxing. 🙂 And thank you for suggesting my book. Zentangle is an easy, portable way to relax – and it builds confidence and can even aid in focus and memory skills. More good news for test-takers. Yeah!
    (PS – I’m up in Warner, NH 🙂 )

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