Puppies, Yoga, Food Help Students Relieve Final Exam Stress

Communication professor Karla Jensen knows her research methods class has been a lot for her students to digest. So on the first day of finals, she and her husband Travis are giving them something a bit easier to digest: breakfast in their home.

“It will be an opportunity to reflect and step back to see all that we’ve accomplished this semester,” Jensen said of her 8 a.m. breakfast final. “Research methods is an intense course that combines qualitative, quantitative and rhetorical methods. It’s a lot to digest for students.”

By 7 a.m. Monday, Jensen will have put the finishing touches on a breakfast pizza. She’ll also provide sausage, fresh fruit, cinnamon rolls, “and lots of coffee,” she admits.

It’s no surprise that college exam time is among the most stressful times for students. But stress relievers like breakfast in a professor’s home aren’t uncommon at Nebraska Wesleyan University.

In fact the stress relievers started prior to finals week. Culmination Week — or “dead week” as the students call the week before exams — was filled with an array of activities for the high-strung.

Students cuddled with puppies on Tuesday, relaxed through yoga on Wednesday, rubbed out some kinks with chair massages on Thursday, and broke out the crayons and markers at a coloring station on Friday. The daily relaxation stations, sponsored by University Ministries, also included coffee, cider, holiday cookie decorating and fruit. A traveling banner — dubbed the “worry wall” — accompanied each relaxation station. Students jotted down their concerns including money, balancing school and jobs, and acing those final exams.

“Relaxation stations are a great idea because they give students a chance to relax and participate in some fun activities during an extremely stressful time,” said student Jennifer Heywood of Lincoln who is experiencing college finals for the first time.

Students are also treated to the annual Late Night Breakfast where NWU faculty serve students breakfast. For a couple hours students indulge in biscuits and gravy and leave their worries behind while being entertained by a comedian.

“They help relieve the anxiety of our workload,” senior James Anderson said of the stress relievers. “They are psychologically helpful by promoting socialization and interaction, and they’re physically helpful even if it means just grabbing a cup of coffee.”

While Professor Jensen waits for her breakfast pizza to bake, German professor Laura Franz will be playing advent music and feeding her students a traditional German breakfast of sliced cheese, cold cuts, bread and butter.

“They need to be able to concentrate through a two-hour exam,” Franz said. “I think it gives them a bit of a lift as they are dealing with cold weather, snow, ice, stress and deadlines.”

Franz admits she’s been adding some stress relievers to her class for a while. Students have enjoyed opening windows on advent calendars, eating gingerbread treats in honor of St. Nicholas Day, and learning the song “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night).

“I get started with special things even before dead week and finals because it’s advent in Germany,” said Franz. “The holidays are a very important part of German culture and history.”

Just down the hall, German professor JoAnn Fuess does something similar with her German media class. After completing their mid-morning final presentations, students will host other German speakers for an early lunch of traditional German treats.

Cooking breakfast, cuddling puppies and coloring holiday pictures are examples of going above and beyond for students, said Jensen.

“Students are incredibly appreciative,” she said. “And alums keep talking about it. Students leave here with special memories that happened outside of the classroom.”

relaxation stations

We need relaxation stations in every day life!! And everyone needs a puppy to play with...they love you no matter what!


We didn't get de-stress puppies when I went to Wesleyan. =(

wonderful story

I love the way this story moves around campus through the student's experience. This is beautifully written!

Patty Hawk, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Communication
Room 330, Suite F
Smith Curtis

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Univerity Ministries hosted relaxation stations for students. Pet therapy helped bring smiles to students' faces.
The relaxation stations included cookies, fruit and coffee.
Students take advantage of a coloring station to unleash some creativity and relieve some stress before final exams.
Students say simple activities like coloring give them a lift as they study for finals.
Students in Karla Jensen's research methods class are treated to breakfast in Jensen's home as part of their final exam.
Jensen said serving breakfast during finals creates a special memory beyond the classroom.