You’ll Love the 3 Ways This College Library Helps Students De-stress for Exams


Since our De-stress for Success program began at our Milwaukee Area Technical College Oak Creek Campus in 2010, we have incorporated a variety of activities to help students during the most stressful time of the year: final exams. We typically run the event during the last two weeks of the semester, with assistance from different student organizations. Each year we come up with new ideas, allowing us to rotate the activities that will be included each semester and keep the event fresh. There are always favorites, and the following are our traditional three — what we call the ABCs of de-stressing for finals.


Various scents can calm, invigorate or promote concentration. An aromatherapy station takes up very little space; a bookmark or pamphlet holder works well. If you have the room, try setting up multiple stations in the areas where students are most likely to study.

matc_aromatherapyIf you’re on a budget and want to stick to just a couple scents, cinnamon and lemon are the go-to mood boosters, but the following can help for more specific causes of test anxiety. Feeling stressed? Try vanilla, orange or chocolate. Feeling unfocused? Peppermint or ginger might help you concentrate. Feeling tired? Inhaling the scent of pine, coffee, spiced apple or lime can invigorate you.

Scented markers and pens are great to have available in the library, and scented dry-erase markers can be offered if your library has whiteboards that are accessible to students. Stickers and bookmarks are great for on the go. Upstart Scratch-and-sniff Bookmarks have become our takeaway item of choice for aromatherapy, as the scented area tends to last for many years.

Bubble Wrap

Some students prefer a more kinesthetic method of easing their test-taking tensions. Bubble wrap is inexpensive to purchase, and it can usually be saved through the year as packages from publishers arrive. We have two methods of incorporating bubble wrap into the event. One way is to offer small squares of it at the De-stress Express, a decorated booktruck filled with items students are free to take to relieve stress, such as earplugs, freshly sharpened #2 pencils and single-serve water-enhancer packets. The second, and more popular method, is to tape a section of bubble wrap to the walls in areas designated as group study or near lecture halls or large classrooms where the majority of exams will be given, with a sign encouraging students to deflate as many plastic air pockets as they need to.


matc_coloringOur very first De-stress for Success included two options: art therapy and making a stress ball. While we offered many different types of art therapy the first year, the two that stuck were watercolor painting and coloring. We only offer watercolors as a special one-day activity, but coloring has become the cornerstone. Our coloring station is easy to set up: we offer a variety of coloring pages, from simple to challenging (printed from royalty-free websites or designed by students), as well as squares that can be colored in and added to a mural that we build in the main corridor of the campus.

The mural offers a splash of color and a chance for students to show off their creative abilities. We utilize an area with both standing-height and wheelchair-accessible heights right in the entryway of the library. This lets students have a five-minute de-stress on their way in or out of the library, since the variations in class schedules don’t really allow us to have a club or event for this sort of activity. Crayons, colored pencils and markers are all great supplies to have available, and this is usually where we put the scented markers and pens. Most of the supplies are donated by student organizations, and we stock up on additional supplies during back-to-school sales.

All of these activities are budget-friendly and simple to set up, making them an easy way to get started with helping your students de-stress their way to success!


Jenn Medved

Jenn Medved

Campus Librarian at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s South Campus
Jenn is the Campus Librarian and a faculty member at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s South Campus in Oak Creek, WI. She has worked at MATC since 2002, the same year she obtained her MLIS from UW-Milwaukee. Her major research focus has been on the transition from young adult services and learning methods to those for college students, specifically as they pertain to millennials. She has a strong belief in the connection between extracurriculars and student success. When not in the library or a classroom, she advises two student organizations (GSA & iF). Jenn also serves as a Library Board Trustee for South Milwaukee Public Library, as a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Municipal Liaison, and as the coordinator of Gondolin, the Milwaukee “Smial” of the Tolkien Society. Contact her by email at or on Twitter.