Saturday, January 16, 2021

Healthy place to unwind

Plattsburgh State students can find therapy dogs, snacks, coloring books and crafts to reduce stress twice a semester thanks to the Stress Free Zone organized by the Student Health & Counseling Center.

Twice a semester, during midterms and finals, Kristina Moquin and Rhema Lewis help organize the event most students know as the days the therapy dogs are on campus.

The Stress Free Zone will be open this semester Oct. 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Angell Community Center and Dec. 2-4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Students can stop by, have goldfish, color, talk with counselors who host and maintain the event, and pet the therapy dogs.

Students can also make stress balls, fold origami and color while taking a break from the high stress of midterms and finals.

Counselors look forward to this day as much as the students, having fun and watching students relax. Helping students by having informal conversations about stress helps break down social barriers and erase the stigma about visiting the mental health center.

Moquin started it all, including bringing in the therapy dogs from the Clinton County Canine Club.

The Stress Free Zone has been running for about six years, but the therapy dogs are relatively new and have been coming to the ACC for only about two years.

Wendy and John Annette train therapy dogs that come visit PSUC, along with nursing homes, hospitals and elementary schools. The dogs enjoy visiting the college students as much as the students enjoy seeing and petting them.

“College kids have the same energy as the elementary school kids when the dogs come to visit,” Wendy said.
The therapy dogs are the biggest draw for the Stress Free Zone.

“A lot of college students miss their pets at home,” Moquin said, “so when they get to see the dogs it makes them feel better.”

Moquin hopes the negative barriers built around counseling and therapy will be brought down by these events, along with Lewis who is working to bring more programming to the dorms to help with campus mental health.

The Stress Free Zone is a good way to help teach students both about how to handle stress as well as how important mental health is. Taking away the stigma around therapy will be good for college kids especially as they grow and graduate because they will be better equipped to handle their every day adult life afterwards.

The counselors and Clinton County Canine Club encourage attendance at the Stress Free Zone because it’s for college students’ benefit. Moquin encourages reaching out to her at pool6563@plattsburgh.edu both for personal reasons or ideas for the Stress Free Zone.

Email Amanda Little at amanda.little@cardinalpointsonline.com

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