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UHS offers art-themed study break, stress-management tips

December 14, 2009 By John Lucas

With the excitement of a snow day behind them, University of Wisconsin–Madison students returned to the libraries to write the semester’s last research papers and study for final exams, which begin Thursday, Dec. 17.

This can be a stressful season, says Rob Sepich, student relations manager at University Health Services (UHS), but students can do themselves a favor by planning some ways to manage it before the pressure really starts to build.

“Tapping into your creative side is a great way to let go of stress and refresh your mind,” says Sepich. “You can spend a few minutes drawing or dancing and singing to your iPod in your room or reading a chapter of a novel, and it’s like a little vacation for your brain.”

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, UHS and the student organization Artists of UW–Madison are cosponsoring a study break called The Art’s on Us! There will be free art supplies from 7-9 p.m. in the Project Work Room of the Student Activity Center, 333 East Campus Mall.

“All students are welcome to drop in and use the supplies,” says Amy Margulies, senior counselor and chair of the UHS Art Task Force. “And anyone who feels inspired to make a small piece with a health theme can donate it for possible use at UHS. The walls of our exam rooms are still pretty empty since our move into this building, and we want to put more student artwork on them.”

UHS offers numerous tips and resources for students feeling stressed out, run down or anxious. They range from simple stress-reduction techniques to free downloadable mp3 relaxation exercises, massage therapy or even meetings with professional counselors.

Students interested in receiving a free one-on-one session with a counselor should call the main UHS number at 608-265-5600 to schedule an appointment. Students can call the same number to make an appointment for 50 minutes of massage therapy for $40. To download a relaxation exercise, visit

Sepich says basic stress-reduction tips include:

  • Set realistic goals of what needs to be accomplished and what can be achieved. Unrealistic expectations will produce a heavy burden of stress and anxiety.
  • Get enough sleep. All-nighters are a part of finals lore, but studies have shown the brain remembers better and functions more efficiently with at least four to six hours.
  • Eat right. A diet of pizza and energy drinks will probably compound a rundown feeling and reduce your ability to focus. Aim for a balanced diet, including plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates.
  • Take short study breaks — even five minutes per hour — to avoid feeling overloaded.
  • Take a break from online news and social networking.
  • Finish one task at a time instead of tackling many problems at once.
  • Reduce comparisons to other students. Try to compare performance in class only against yourself and previous semesters.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Turning to friends, professors or UHS for help in coping is a sign of strength, not weakness.

UHS stress tips are available at