From puppies & ponies to the ‘cry closet’ – the art of exam stress relief

It's exam season - Paul Greatrix rounds up some of the ways that universities around the world support students through this very stressful time.
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It’s the most stressful time of the year for many students at the moment. Fortunately, those wonderful people at Student Minds have some very sensible advice on exam stress:

Lots of universities also offer a wide range of innovative stress-busting opportunities, the most exciting of which I noted here a while back, the karaoke booths at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, which were installed to enable students to let off steam.

These booths don’t seem to have caught on yet in the UK. Here we are still very much focused on puppies and puppy rooms – which continue to be extremely popular – although over the past few years we have seen petting zoos, bubble wrap for popping, and lots of colouring in opportunities for stressed students too. US universities have generally been a bit more creative as these examples  demonstrate:

  • Northwestern offers Lego building and board games.
  • A “marshmallow challenge” in which students try to build a tower out of marshmallows, dry spaghetti, and string is available at Shoreline Community College.
  • Florida State University went all Hogwarts last year with Quidditch Ring Toss; Harry Potter arts and crafts; Lego Hogwarts castle-building; and Harry Potter-themed snacks.
  • Possibly the best of all of these stress relief activities was the deployment by Roosevelt University of miniature therapy horses – who wouldn’t want to meet those critters?

Most recently though, the establishment of a ‘Cry Closet’


at the University of Utah library has been making headlines:

The installation, called Safe Place for Stressed Out Students Otherwise Known as The Cry Closet, has five rules: Knock before entering, only one person in the closet at a time, limit your time in the closet to no more than 10 minutes, turn lights and timer off before leaving, and use the hashtag #cryclosetuofu if posting on social media.

“You can cry, scream, look your phone and decompress, and hopefully you come out feeling a little better in this crazy week of finals,”

The creator of the closet was quoted as saying:

“I am interested in humanity and the inherent complexities of the human condition. In my work, I reflect on my experiences and explore what it means to be human. One aspect of humanity that I am currently exploring is connections and missed connections through communication. It’s been interesting to watch the response to this piece about human emotions, and I’m proud to see the power of art in action.”

It turns out that the closet is actually an art installation. But it does also serve that useful purpose of helping stressed out students, albeit one at a time.

Utah is a long way to go for a cry though so perhaps stick to the Student Minds advice. Unless your university has decided to get the miniature ponies in of course.


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