group of students with balloons

Spring Exam Jam helps students de-stress

Blake Eligh

The spring exam period kicked off with a day dedicated to stress-busting and student mental health at Tuesday’s Exam Jam at U of T Mississauga. The day-long event aimed to help students avoid stress, stay focused and get energized during the spring exam period.

This was the fourth campus-wide Exam Jam session, which has grown into an event supported by departments across the campus, including the Dean’s Office, Health & Counselling Centre, the Recreation, Athletic and Wellness Centre and Chartwells. About 80 student volunteers assisted with running events and leading activities including yoga, a nap clinic and a giant game of Jenga. The ever-popular therapy dogs lapped up attention alongside new activities like “deskercise” (a seated workout regime), a DIY station to make stress balls, and a special tree where students could take or leave motivational messages for one another.

”We’ve created a fun atmosphere that invites students to de-stress while also getting their review sessions in,” says Clerissa Albores, a health education program assistant with the Health & Counselling Centre, adding that events like Exam Jam shows students that UTM cares about their well-being as well as their academic success. “Sleep, healthy eating and physical activity are often the things students might give up when stressed,” she says. “Our goal is for our students to de-stress or to learn techniques that help them to de-stress while they’re studying

According to Health & Counselling Centre assistant director Chad Jankowski, “Many activities have a take-away item—stress balls, balloon animals, a potted plant or a message from the message trees. We hope students learn something new, and maybe connect with someone else while doing that activity.”

Hart House ambassador Melina Mehr helped students get their hands dirty planting corn, bean and nasturtium flower seeds in little pots. Gardening is a great spring stress-buster, she says. “We want to remind people that the outdoors exist, and it’s healthy and easy to grow things in your home or garden.” Along with the pots, Mehr handed out instruction leaflets with advice that applies to plants and people alike. “Water the plants every day, but make sure you stay hydrated, too. Plants need direct sunlight, which is also good for humans to increase mental health and well-being.” To bust stress, the fifth-year cinema studies and English literature student takes ballet classes. “Exercise and being outside are the two things I try to do the most,” she says.

Sana Rashe, a first-year life sciences student, was handing out healthy snacks with the Healthy Campus Crew. “It’s important to eat right during exams,” Rashe says. “It keeps your mind running and you won’t feel fatigued as easily.” Rashe says she relaxes with family and watches television when she needs a study break. Her friend Asma Ramzan, also a first-year life sciences student, says she’s too busy to watch television during exams, but makes sure to get outside with her family when she needs a break.

Spring Exam Jam also included 50 instructor-led review sessions, as well as exam prep sessions led by the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre and, new this year, peer-led study groups. There were also themed study rooms featuring classical music, tropical sounds, and a Positive Space room facilitated by OUT@UTM and UTMSU's LGBTQ coordinator.

Student volunteer Zara Rizwan facilitated a study session in the Positive Study Space. “People might not realize that they could be saying something that could be harmful,” she says. “Positive space is about the reassurance that everyone is welcome regardless of gender or sexual orientation. We want to provide a safe space for queer folk and their allies to study on campus.”

The Positive Space schedule included study time broken up by activities like belly dancing, silly YouTube videos, origami and improv. Rizwan, who is finishing her second year at UTM as a double major in English and Art and Art History, says she busts stress by keeping a balanced schedule. “I like to stay organized and to allow myself time to slack off and procrastinate,” she says. “Having a timer set is really good. If I have 50 minutes for writing an essay, I set aside 10 minutes to watch TV or listen to music or take it easy, and then I get back into it when the timer ends.”