Find your own therapy dog

Taylor Rocca, Copy/Web Editor Ω

Therapy Dog Thursdays are coming to TRU starting Feb. 14. - Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Therapy Dog Thursdays are coming to TRU starting Feb. 14. – Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Way back in October 2012, I wrote a little piece on the importance of mental health and how students should always be aware of their own well-being as well as that of their peers.

After all, we’re all in this together, right?

With that being said, we are approaching the mid-semester mark as the 2012-13 academic year flies by. Maybe it is just me getting old, but it seems as though each semester passes quicker than the last. Despite how fast time seems to pass, stress still builds and as midterms commence and projects start to loom, students need to ensure they manage their stress.

In an effort to help students cope with stress and manage anxiety, TRU Wellness will be hosting the first of weekly Therapy Dog Thursdays on Feb. 14.

If you are stressing about not having a date for Valentine’s Day, there is no need to worry. Wouldn’t you rather have a date with a fuzzy little furball that is going to love you unconditionally?

Therapy Dog Thursdays will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Thursday through April 11, with the first coming on Feb. 14 as mentioned. These fun-loving little critters can be found on BMO Student Street where students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to play with and walk the dogs.

During my time at the University of Alberta, I was fortunate enough to organize an event similar to this within the walls of my residence building. We booked out a room and for the entire day we had dogs of all sorts running around happily.

The most rewarding part of this experience wasn’t in seeing the dogs running for joy. It was in seeing the faces of stressed university students elated, chasing these dogs around as if they were puppies themselves.

A 2001 study conducted by Sarah J. Brodie and Francis C. Biley in the Journal of Nursing cites a number of previous studies that discovered many widespread pet-therapy benefits for humans. From stimulating awareness and interaction to improving life satisfaction and reducing depression, the benefits of pet therapy have been well-documented over the years.

Relaxation is a word consistently found through some of these studies, so it goes without saying that Therapy Dog Thursdays should be welcomed with open arms to a post-secondary campus where stress is bred in classrooms and assignments.

If you have more love for dog’s evil counterpart, the cat, then maybe music therapy is more your thing. Sorry, this is an opinion column and I think cats are evil. Alas, to each their own.

According to a model published in the Arts in Psychotherapy journal by Shannon Sausser and Raymond J. Waller, therapy can be found in composing and playing music. This might sound shocking when you consider how many failed and successful rockstars have succumbed to drug or alcohol addiction, but Sausser and Waller prove its benefits. If you have always dreamed about picking up the guitar or slugging away on a drum kit, maybe now is the time to try it out?

Maybe you aren’t musically gifted but still enjoy a good tune or show. If you check out last week’s edition of The Omega, our arts and entertainment editor, Brendan Kergin, previewed a few of the live music and entertainment options for students in the month of February. Right there you have a nice little buffet of options for music and entertainment therapy.

The Harlem Globetrotters are visiting the Tournament Capital Centre tonight and there are a few musical acts performing throughout town between now and the end of the month.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be aware of your stress levels and what you need to manage them. As much as slaving over the books is important during your time in post-secondary, it is not worth killing yourself over. And I’m not joking when I say that.

Take a breather every now and then. Getting a B-plus on that exam rather than an A-minus won’t hurt that much in the long run if you are able to salvage your mental and physical well-being in the process.