This version corrects the credit on the first photo.

“Going back to school is relaxing,” said no one, ever.

Whether you’re in first year, or just one year closer to mom and dad’s basement, school brings a flurry of emotions: excitement, angst, nervousness. Some of us manage it, some of us pretend to, and some of us are currently locked up in the school washroom listening to Lana Del Rey and scribbling inspirational graffiti on the stalls.

For the most part, there’s no stopping these feelings. The best you can do is to manage them, and for those moments you do crack under pressure, learn how to not be so hard on yourself. Here are some ways to buffer those spiking stress levels:

1: Pet something

Are you currently feeling down? Please, take a moment to look at this:

Trinket, one of the RU therapy dogs. (Courtesy: Twitter/@RUTherapyDogs

Trinket, one of the RU therapy dogs (Courtesy: Twitter/@RyeHealth).

This dog actually exists, in reality, and you can pet her soft cream-and-cinnamon fur. Her name is Trinket, and she, along with a gang of other furry friends, is an RU Therapy Dog. Once a week, snuggle fiestas ensue and bring a room to life with love and adorableness, and all students are welcome! And if you dislike dogs, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

A study at Georgia State University finds that animal therapy can dramatically reduce feelings of stress and loneliness in university students. Dogs, in particular, are said to offer the best therapy for stressed out students, due to their ability to read human cues, and their unparalleled skills at showing love and support.

To pet the dogs, all you have to do is show up, sign your name, and put what program you’re in. The program runs on Mondays from 11:30 a.m.-12: 30 p.m. in Kerr Hall West. You can Like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

2: Campus help:

Some of us need a quick de-stress, but for others, managing symptoms of anxiety and depression is a long-term mission. There are mental health resources available right on campus to ensure you get through these school years as smoothly as possible.

Sarah Thompson is the clinical coordinator at Ryerson’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling. Thompson says back-to-school is always stressful because it’s a time of huge transition.

“Students are engaging in a whole new set of behaviour, new relationship, new environments,” says Thompson. “A lot of the stress has to do with change in daily routines.”

She says that wait times to set up an initial meeting with a counsellor can take two to three weeks. Close to midterms, students seeking individual therapy may have to wait several months to speak to someone.

Thompson says that the centre has boosted administrative and counselling resources by 50 per cent in the last four years, so students have greater counselling services and can be seen faster. If you’re seeking group therapy, Thompson says you can be seen the next day.

You can call the Centre for Student Development and Counselling at 416-979-5195. Don’t be discouraged if you get voicemail, leave a message and keep calling. The beginning of the school year is always a busy time.

3: Hit up some apps

(Picture 3) Flickr User Merill College of Journalism via Creative Commons License

Courtesy: Flikr/Merill College of Journalism

Some solutions are literally at your fingertips. Stressed out geniuses around the world have created stress reduction apps that are designed specifically with a student budget in mind — because they’re free!

An app called Amwell works as a Iive doctor’s appointment by putting you on a video call with a doctor who can guide you through your more vulnerable moments. Then there’s the Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) app. You tell the app how you’re feeling and it walks you through some calming practices and connects you with other SAM users.

Some studies suggest that other apps might do the job. The Clinical Psychology Science journal recently found that playing a science-based mobile gaming app for twenty-five minutes can significantly help people suffering with high anxiety levels by encouraging them to ignore threatening stimulus — like an angry face —  by focusing on on non-threatening stimuli.

4: Extracurriculars 


The Ryerson Athletic Centre.

Ryerson’s athletic facilities (courtesy:

Woo hoo, gym. I know, it doesn’t sound that appealing for those of us who are more “laid-back” but it’s a great way to work off all that pent up energy. Be warned, many students complain of the gym’s high traffic during the day. The best time to go is either very early in the morning or late at night. To find out more about hours and location, just click here.

The benefits of exercise have long been established. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that physical activity is effective at reducing fatigue, and improving concentration and alertness by improving cognitive abilities. The group says the body feels the impact of our state of mind. So, it stands to reason that if you make your body feel better, your mind will feel better, too.

Ryerson University offers a host of sports and intramural activities. Membership is included in your tuition, and exempting a few services – like massage — there are no additional fees. Options range from squash and fencing to yoga.

So when you feel a rush of anxiety coming at you, just remember that you have many people, resources and furry friends ready to help you.

Nicole Abi-Najem is a Master of journalism student who likes long-form journalism and creative non-fiction.

2 Comments to: 4 ways to beat back-to-school blues

  1. Akemi Liyanage

    September 21st, 2015

    Just a friendly correction-the photo of Trinket comes from @RyeHealth’s photo stream, not @RUTherapyDogs.

    • Hania Ahmed

      September 23rd, 2015

      Hi Akemi,

      Thanks for the correction! We’ve updated the story to reflect.


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