5 Ways to De-Stress at University Park

Photo by Maria Crisafulli

Whether it’s a big test at 8 a.m. the Monday following a game weekend, a roommate who can’t seem to behave like a normal human being or a schedule that contains endless tasks, we are all stressed. With finals just around the corner, this stress may be starting to build.

College can be a breeding ground for pressure and worries about various things, from friend group dynamics to what you’ll do with that $100k piece of paper you just spent four years earning. But, have no fear because Valley is here with five of the best ways to de-stress on campus.

1. HealthWorks – StressLess

According to their website, HealthWorks is “a peer education and outreach program in University Health Services that aims to promote health among Penn State students.” Olivia Ho, junior biobehavioral major and HealthWorks Peer Educator, says that as a member of HealthWorks, “I basically help advocate for a healthier Penn State by [helping run] campaigns, workshops and initiatives.” One of these so-called initiatives that focuses solely on diminishing stress is called StressLess.

“StressLess is approximately 60 minutes [long] and focuses on stress relief for students. It talks about coping methods as well as educating students on how to do certain activities such as body scans and mindfulness meditation,” Ho says. “Workshops are usually given to organizations, residence life, and first-year seminars, so students can request them free of charge to a group of people or a class.”

If you and a few friends are looking for a different way to spend girls’ night, try attending a StressLess workshop and find your way to a calmer you, together.

2. HealthWorks – De-Stress Zone

If you’ve generally got your mediation routine down pat but are still looking for other, different approaches to relax your mind, look no further than the De-Stress Zone. Located at 201 Student Health Center, Ho says this is another way for students to ease the strain of being a college student day in and day out.

At the De-Stress Zone, “Students can stop by and listen to mindfulness mediation, calming music, and even work with biofeedback programs on the computer,” Ho says. This De-Stress zone is available year round, but during finals week, “HealthWorks works with Penn State Libraries to create a de-stress table in the library that includes games, play-doh and snacks,” Ho says. Sounds like the perfect excuse to take a break.


If de-stressing for you looks less like calmly playing games or meditating and more like venting about what’s bothering you to someone who will actually listen, there’s an option for you too. Counseling and Psychological Services, otherwise known as CAPS, is located at 501 Student Health Center. According to their website, CAPS’s “primary mission is to address the psychological needs and personal concerns of students that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, and emotional wellbeing.” In short, they are here for you.

Offering a variety of services from counseling and group counseling, to crisis intervention and outreach workshops, CAPS offers a little something for everyone. Each student attending University Park is allotted six free sessions at CAPS before they have to pay for its services, so there’s no excuse not to make an effort to go talk to someone if you feel the need to. The one downside to CAPS is that because of student demand, after the first few months of the year a waitlist for its services does build up, and can be over a hundred students long. However, if you are experiencing a crisis, a counselor will see you as soon as possible, without an appointment. CAPS is full of people who only want to help you succeed as a college student and as a young adult in general.

4. Nature

University Park is the definition of a picturesque, movie-worthy college campus. From Old Main and the HUB lawn to the Arboretum and the ivy-like presence of West Halls, there are so many places to sit and enjoy the day. Grab a blanket and a calm-inducing playlist, and head out for the sunniest patch of grass or bench you can find. As author Annie Dillard says, “Spend the afternoon, you can’t take it with you.”

5. Exercise

If you have a gym membership here at University Park, there are many different group exercise classes you can take to step away from your academic woes and de-stress. One of the most popular classes offered is yoga. Ho says, “I know some students really enjoy yoga because they find it relaxing. Student Health Services also offers a free yoga lesson each week.”

Ho says that there are many different ways students experience stress and as such, there are many different ways to cope with stress. Just because something works for a friend doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you, so don’t freak out if you spend an entire session of yoga more worried about if you’ll pull a muscle than how ‘centered’ you are in that moment. It could just mean that you’re more of a power remix kind of person, and there’s no shame in that.

If you’d like more information on de-stressing techniques and services, feel free to visit 201 Student Health Center or their website: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/wellness/healthWorks.shtml. Also, check out http://sites.psu.edu/healthypennstate/, a site focused not just on helping students alleviate stress during their time at University Park, but on all aspects of healthy living.