By Ana Hurler
Students took part in creative de-stressing activities and learned how to manage their stress during the 6th annual Stress Less Carnival on McKeldin Mall Thursday, hosted by the campus organization, Active Minds at Maryland.
The carnival was part of the organization’s Stress Less Week, which took place from April 16 to 22, and included events such as a Mental Health Awareness Acapella Concert and yoga on the Mall.
Senior community health major Daniel Kessler is a secretary for Active Minds at Maryland, a mental health group on campus that focuses on “stigma reduction, education and advocacy.” He said the carnival has always been a successful event for the group and usually has a big turnout of students.
“We do this for a few reasons: ‘A,’ we want to get the word out about mental health, ‘B,’ it’s a stressful time anyway because it’s near finals and people are freaking out, and ‘C,’ because we want to just have fun stuff to do and it’s a nice thing,” Kessler said.
Several student and university organizations set up booths at the carnival where students could learn how to de-stress and partake in fun activities such as splatter painting, coloring, painting rocks and petting therapy dogs.
A new student group, Scholars Promoting and Revitalizing Care, had a stand with several large, white posters where students could splatter paint, “like a catharsis, quick flick of the wrist one time when you’re going to class,” said co-founder and president of SPARC Anthony Sartori, a junior psychology and kinesiology major.
“Being creative is one of the best ways to care about yourself,” Sartori said.
Freshman computer science major Kevin Beal said he decided to check out SPARC’s painting activity after the colors caught his attention while he was riding by on his bike.
“I also think that having events like this is really good for the school because sometimes you get so caught up in your work that you don’t have time to just do random fun stuff, which definitely are great ways to relieve stress when you can focus on anything else besides homework,” Beal said.
“I think a lot of times in college people get too caught up with the workload and it’s nice to have these events just to remind them to have fun,” said SPARC co-president Kristen Brockett, a sophomore government and politics major. “I mean that’s why you’re in college, it’s like the last few years you can have fun before you have to go and join the real world.”
At the Terps for Recovery student group booth, students could make their own buttons and paint rocks to de-stress. Students could also learn more about the organization, which offers support to people in recovery from various addictions, eating disorders, self-harm and other vices.
“Most people come by and see Terps for Recovery and they’re like, ‘Oh I’m not an alcoholic, sorry,’ or ‘I don’t do drugs, so bye,’ but we’re more than that,” said the group’s social chair Amy Winkler, a sophomore sustainable agriculture major.
Treasurer Rebecca Gibson, a senior family science major, said the group works to destigmatize addiction and recovery, and hopes students realize there are people out there willing to help them. Because of this stigma, the group has been working to show there are other ways to seek help by having a drop-in space at the Health Center and coming to events like the carnival to reach out to students.
“We were asked by the Stress Less Carnival to come because I think that a lot of ways that students tend to de-stress is by drinking or partying, and kind of showing that there are other ways to calm down like meditation or painting,” Gibson said.
Sartori said that it’s important for students to remember to take care of themselves, especially when stressed out about tests and assignments.
“Take the time to take 20 minutes for yourself,” he said. “You don’t have to meditate, just kind of let your thoughts go and just sit with yourself, because we forget to connect with our body all the time.”
When it comes to managing stress, Kessler said one good tactic to do right away is deep breathing. In addition to that, any activity that relaxes you and removes you from the stressful situation can be beneficial.
“You can meditate, you can go on a run, you can read poetry, or do art or write in a journal,” he said. “Once you’re de-stressed go back and tackle the thing again, and usually once you’re in a better mood and a better mindset then you realize that it’s not as stressful as it appeared to be in the first place.”