Letter to the Editor: Dogs help with student stress

Contributed photo

Contributed photo

In many ways your editorial “Laurier’s Exam De-stressors Might Be Missing the Mark,” (Nov. 30) did hit the mark: I agree that the exam period is demanding for students. Stress is a complex issue and raises questions about how students might find ways to respond.

This past April, during the exam period, my colleague and I conducted a randomized control study and found that Laurier undergrad students who interacted with dogs for 30 minutes had lowered heart rates, blood pressure and salivary cortisol levels (all physiological signs of a lowered stress). In comparison to students who watched a film on stress, students in the dog-petting group had significantly higher positive feelings and decreased negative feelings.

Those in the “movie” group actually had higher levels of negative feelings (irritability, distress, anxiety) and lower positive feelings (enthusiasm, alertness, feeling inspired).

Students noted that interacting with the dogs distracted them from their current stress. So, something students can do for themselves is to engage in activities such as going for coffee with a friend, a walk, or another short activity that provides them with a distraction from the stress they are experiencing.

A great majority of students at the seminary are enrolled in our Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy program. Some of our staff and faculty members, myself included, regularly host sessions where students meet with playful dogs in an effort to de-stress. In addition to holding weekly Chilling With Dogs sessions at the Delton Glebe Counselling Centre throughout the school year and occasionally visiting students in residences, we offer de-stressing events during exam times.

Our next drop-in sessions run 11 a.m.-1p.m. in Keffer Chapel (Albert Street and Bricker Avenue) on Dec. 12, 14, and 16.

And while it’s difficult to predict how many stressed-out students might want to snuggle with our pets during each session, we always try to ensure there are enough dogs to satisfy students without adding to their stress levels.

-Dr. Kristine Lund
Director of Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy Programs
Waterloo Lutheran Seminary

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