Snuggling up to Samantha, a nine-year-old therapy dog, government junior Alexandra Thomas could feel her finals stress slip away.
“Dogs are never worried about anything, they just live in the moment and love you no matter who you are,” Thomas said. “It reminds me that life is short and just to enjoy it while you have it.”
Samantha and her canine cohorts were the main attraction on Wednesday afternoon at Chillfest, an Events + Entertainment event that offers arts and crafts, free food, massage chairs and other stress-relieving activities to help students relax as the end of semester approaches.
More than 1,000 students swarmed the event, standing in long lines for hot chocolate and five-minute massages. Recreation chair Rachita Murthy said E+E has hosted Chillfest for seven years now and continually attracts crowds of more than 900.
Murthy said the therapy dogs and the massage chairs are staples, but different arts and crafts fluctuate. This year’s lineup included gingerbread decorating stations and games of giant Jenga.
“The activities are designed to let students take their mind off exams and concentrate their energy on something else for a while before they go back to studying,” biology junior Murthy said. “We’re all so busy, so to do something fun with your friends is always great.”
In addition to the crafts and games, members of UT Counseling and Mental Health Center and HealthyHorns were present to offer words of encouragement and remind students to practice self-care and get adequate sleep.
Mckenna Gessner, CHMC peer educator, said social interaction is vital during this time of year.
“Instead of binge-watching Netflix shows, you can be with a community doing gratitude exercises or getting a massage,” said Gessner, a Plan II and women’s and gender studies junior. “I think visits to the CMHC spike during finals, and things like this help prevent that.”
Thomas said her encounter with Samantha and the other therapy dogs at Chillfest helped break her out of the mental fog she’d found herself in as final assignments consumed her.
“It just made my whole day,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of everything at once, and I guess I start kind of spiraling. I think ‘If I don’t do good on this I won’t get in law school and then I won’t get a good job or have a future.’ But this kind of helps you get away from it all.”