Reducing stress one student at a time

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Courtesy Lee Ann Hamilton | The Daily Wildcat UA Stressbusters are part of a national program active at Harvard, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, NAU & UA. The volunteers provide de-stressing back rubs and wellness info to students.

Stressbusters, a group of University of Arizona student volunteers that has been eliminating students’ anxieties since 2013, is expanding its team for the new school year.

The nationwide program, created by Jordan Friedman at Columbia University, serves as an outlet for students to relax and unwind by receiving a 5-to-10-minute back rub from the student volunteers. They are taught how to calm students down in a positive way, fulfilling the Stressbusters’ mission. 

“The main goal of Stressbusters is to help people relax in a healthy way,” said Lee Ann Hamilton, the assistant director of Health Promotion and Preventive Services at UA.

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Becoming a Stressbusters volunteer allows students to learn all about different types of ways to reduce stress. Aside from learning those techniques, the volunteers are also able to work on improving their communication skills among their peers, according to Hamilton.

“Students benefit from becoming a Stressbusters volunteer by learning how to effectively manage stress, but most importantly, volunteers get to enjoy making someone’s day,” Hamilton said. 

A typical day for a Stressbusters volunteer includes participating in a Stressbusters event, which lasts for one hour, and then giving multiple students a stress-reducing back rub for 5 to 10 minutes. “A crucial role in a Stressbuster’s job is to enliven the student’s day by removing any stress or anxiety the student faces,” Hamilton said.

“As a second-year Stressbuster, I have witnessed the satisfaction a person expresses when we relieve them from stress,” said Ryan Gonzales, a sophomore pre-physiology and East-Asian studies major at UA. “With every tense muscle and with each heavy breath, we are supporting the students both physically and mentally.” 

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Once a student becomes a volunteer, they are required to attend at least five Stressbusters events per semester, which usually take place in the Main Library. According to Hamilton, students must also attend a training to learn how to give a successful back rub and students looking to volunteer must be comfortable providing back rubs to people they are not familiar with. 

At the Stressbusters training, students are taught the history of the program and participate in a Skype chat with Friedman himself. Hamilton said that students also learn about what happens with touch, what feels good and what areas must be avoided in the back rub.

They will demonstrate how to properly give a back rub, then students will practice those techniques by going out to a Stressbusters event right after training. The training shows future volunteers how to greet students and how to make it the best experience possible for them. 

“We all share a lot of laughs during the five-hour training,” said Hamilton. 

If you are interested in a volunteer position with Stressbusters, visit their website. You will be required to have a brief interview and attend the Stressbusters training Sept. 27. Stressbusters will be taking in applications until Sept. 19. 

“You can be that support that the University of Arizona needs,” Gonzales said.


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