Campus Fun: 10 Great Activities Colleges are Providing for Their Students to Destress During Finals Week!

Stress Less for Success

We've all been there. Finals week is by far the most stressful time on campus. And no one has a better eye for recognizing and responding to students in distress than the folks in Student Affairs. Fortunately, many creative SA professionals have come up with fun and clever ideas to help their harried students to destress and release some tension through rewarding and engaging activities.

Staying cool, calm and collected during finals is crucial in order to your best. Check out some of our favorite stress-relieving ideas we're seeing on college campuses during Finals Week!

1. Pinterest and Popcorn

Many students find themselves mentally and physically overworked during final exams, and they don't always know how to deal with increased stress levels.

Shifting the focus from deadlines, papers and cumulative exams to a creative project in a friendly, welcoming, environment is a great way to relieve stress.

Take a break from studying to channel your inner artist. Gathering with friends (who are most likely just as stressed as you are) for some crafting fun is rejuvenating, stress-relieving and fun!

Check it out: Brownies, popcorn, craft projects and free door prizes at CU Boulder.

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
— Pablo Picasso

2. Late Night Breakfast

Nothing helps you to relax like comfort food. And there's not much as comforting as a warm breakfast... any time of day (and especially during the middle of a late night study session). Take a break from your studies and get warm and cozy with fellow classmates for a hot buffet breakfast. It's amazing what eating your favorite comfort foods can do for your energy and morale! 

Check it out: PJs & Pancakes after dark at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.

3. Tea Time

In literature, when the protagonist is stressed, inevitably someone will make a pot of tea. Why? Because a hot cup of tea is the universal comfort drink! Add some scrumptious fresh-baked pastries to make tea time with classmates a delicious and effective stress reliever.

Finals week is one of the busiest on campus, and many students barely have time to sit still. Tea Time offers a nice break from the day's demands (and a natural energy booster), making it a really fun way to relax and socialize during finals. Stories, laughter and conversations with staff and friends will instantly put students in a better mood.

Check it out: Tea, scones and lots of good conversations at James Madison University.

4. Holiday Door Decorating

Combine creativity, originality and some friendly competition for a fun way to destress and get into the holiday spirit! From residence halls to academic departments to student clubs, door-decorating contests can be organized just about anywhere on campus. (Bonus: Great exposure for student leaders to promote their organizations!)

Just pick a theme, line up a panel of judges (or let students and staff vote for their favorites), arrange prizes and get creative! Check out some imaginative ideas here.

Judges should look for outstanding door decorations in a variety of categories such as Best Theme, Most Spirited, Best Use of School Colors, Most Creative and Best Overall.

Check it out: Student organizations and departments participated in a door decorating contest at Bridgewater State University.

5. Slacklining, Campfire & S'mores

Feel like you're living in the library? One law student we know used to keep a pair of house slippers under a desk during first-year exams! 

Whether you're a freshman or a senior or a grad student, finals week means you'll often be found studying inside for hours on end (along with hundreds of other classmates), and accordingly, library over-crowding can sometimes result in cabin fever or claustrophobia.

Getting outside is important at this demanding time to get all the excess energy out, especially when you're nervous. Fresh air and sun will help clear your head and take your mind off your studies and exams, leaving you energized and refreshed. Games and activities like dodgeball, capture the flag and slacklining provide great opportunities to get the heart rate up, blow off steam, socialize and meet new friends. Plus, delicious treats (campfire + s'mores, anyone?) will help you and your friends unwind before the next exam.

Check it out: Students at the University of North Texas get outdoors to walk the line and roast up a sweet snack.

The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.
— Sakyong Mipham

6. Coloring and Cocoa

Good crafternoon! Drawing and coloring help take the focus off busy schedules and stressful exams. Adult coloring books, printed coloring pages and mandalas are popular and relaxing without taking up too much time from your busy study timetable. (Bonus: You might even take home a new masterpiece!)

Check it out: William Paterson University students channel their inner artists with Crayola, creativity and hot cocoa.

7. Cram Jam Study Break

Exams can be extremely stressful, both physically and mentally. For many people, getting a massage is one of the most effective ways to relieve mental and physical stress. Massage helps to clear your mind, improves focus, concentration and well-being. It can also help alleviate pain and stiffness in your neck, back and joints.

Create a peaceful, soothing setting for students to stop by for a quick, rejuvenating massage to calm their nerves and uplift their spirits!

Check it out: Massages, food and free giveaways at Merrimack College.

8. PlayDoh Power Hour

Spending a lot of time in overcrowded study spaces can easily frustrate students. Whether you're gearing up for your next exam or you're done studying but still feeling jittery, nervous energy can be very distracting. A fun and therapeutic way to release tension is simply working your stress out through your hands. Clay and Play-Doh stations provide an outlet for creativity and invigorating sensory stimulation.

Keep those fingers moving: Board games and puzzles help students to shift focus away from homework and other daily demands and as such are also excellent stress reducers. Take a break from studying and have some relaxing fun with friends!

Check it out: Tactile play with colorful clay! During Destress Fest, students at the University of Nebraska Omaha squeeze out their frustrations with everyone's favorite childhood dough.

9. Stress Relief Yoga

Exhale. Stretch. Pose. Hold.

When students are drowning in lecture notes and reading assignments, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Practicing yoga, controlled breathing, and meditation is a great way to clear your mind and help with focus. Plus, yoga is one of the most popular and recommended forms of stress relief. It can be a powerful reminder not to let our stress get the best of us.

Find your tribe: Group yoga and meditation will give students a fresh start, leaving them refreshed and confident!

Check it out: At the University of Rhode Island, students gather together for some stress-relieving and restorative yoga.

10. Pause for Paws

Lastly, our favorite finals week stress reliever, a Stress-Free Zone featuring a huggable petting zoo! Invite students for a nice break from studying: snacks, refreshments, and of course, sweet therapy animals to pet.

In fact, puppy rooms are gaining popularity across the country as a nearly cost-free way to reduce anxiety. Read more on how campus therapy dogs offer a helping paw to stressed students!

Check it out: Westminster College students harness puppy power to lower stress levels during Finals Week.

As a student, how do you like to destress during midterms or finals week? As a student affairs professional, what are your favorite ways to engage and support students during this demanding time of year? Let us know in the comments section!