Stress is at the top of the list of health issues affecting students’ academic success.
To combat stress, the Habif Health & Wellness Center has started the stressbusters program on the Danforth Campus.
Student stressbusters will be trained to give five-minute backrubs to other students, faculty and staff while providing relevant wellness resources. The program will provide sustained relaxation opportunities, increase wellness outreach, provide stress-reduction skills training and increase the visibility of campus wellness resources.
The national program has proved quite popular at other schools across the country.
“We wanted to address stress in a very visible way and begin to change the way students think about it,” said Melissa Ruwitch, assistant director of Student Health Services and chief of Health Promotion Services.
“Students involved in this program will communicate the idea that there is nothing admirable about being in a constant state of frenzy and that it is important to take time to relax and take care of yourself,” Ruwitch said. “Stressbusters enjoy providing the service, and stressbustees enjoy the relaxation — and can hopefully connect with other resources to help them take care of themselves.”
Students who volunteer as stressbusters are trained by a licensed massage therapist to give the free five-minute backrubs. They also are trained to provide information on health and wellness resources available on campus, including those in Student Health Services and the professional massages available at the South 40 fitness center.
Junior Faith Williams, stressbusters student coordinator, joined the program because of an interest in public health and community wellness.
“I know from personal experience how stressful college can be,” she said. “We get caught up in balancing classes with studying, work-study jobs, volunteering, student organizations, applying for internships and scholarships, taking the GRE and having some sort of social life.
“Our health sometimes takes a backseat to all of our other priorities. I think it’s important for students to have someone to turn to or some sort of outlet for stress,” Williams said.
She remembers having performance anxiety before exams her freshman and sophomore years and wishes a program like this had been around to help.
“A great aspect of this program is that it serves the whole University community,” Ruwitch said. “Students are dispatched to give the backrubs at events for other students, faculty and staff.”
Ruwitch cited a 2005 University of Illinois review of 37 studies on the effects of backrubs and massage, which found they reduce heart rate, blood pressure, depression pain and anxiety.
Students interested in applying to be a stressbuster can visit shs.wustl.edu/stressbusters.htm and attend training sessions Friday, Feb. 27, or Saturday, Feb. 28.