Therapy dogs, chair massages and more: Iwasaki Library to host Cirque de De-Stress this Friday

By Sophia Pargas, Living Arts Editor

In the midst of the most stressful time of any college student’s semester—finals week—the Iwasaki Library will be hosting Cirque de De-Stress, a Spirit Award winning event where students can unwind with therapy dogs, chair massages, guided meditation, and more. 

The event will be held on Friday Dec. 3 from 1-4 p.m., and is open to any student looking to participate in self-care activities to alleviate stress as the semester comes to an end. 

“The library will still be available for all of its library functions, but at the front part, we’re going to have a space for people to be doing arts and crafts,” said Cate Schneiderman, reference coordinator and co-creator of the event. “There will also be a spot for them to swipe in and sign up for an appointment with a therapy dog or a chair massage.” 

The event, started in 2014, was born from students’ growing desires to engage with animals on campus as a means of stress relief. As part of the Engagement Lab’s Community PlanIt project, a grant fund for projects on campus, the Iwasaki Library was given the necessary funding to make this request a reality, and the event grew from there. 

“At the time, there was awareness of therapy dogs and meditation, things you could do for stress relief that don’t cost a lot of money or time, but can really have an impact on your well being,” Executive Director of Library & Learning Cheryl McGrath said

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Since the creation of Cirque de De-Stress, its intent has always been to offer students a space to practice self care during a time when they need it most. Additionally, it aims to do so in a fun and engaging way and provide students a unique experience on campus. 

“It’s a trend that I’ve seen nationally in libraries for the past decade or two, where librarians would see the students come in and see how hard they were working,” McGrath said. “You’d see the same student in the same seat sometimes for six hours, just being so dedicated, working so hard. Students being able to get up from their table after a couple of hours and pet a dog can really relax you and get you in a mindset to go back for the next four hours of sitting at that same table and studying.” 

While the pandemic put a stop to in-person activities conducted at the event, Schneidermann said the need for Cirque de De-Stress remained. As a result, the event was moved online for the 2019-20 school year as a hub for self care, featuring yoga, spa, art, meditation, and music resources for students to enjoy on their own time. 

“It’s not like people were under any less stress,” Schneidermann said. “It’s become a real tradition at Emerson, and it breaks my heart that there’s almost two years worth of Emerson students who have never gotten to experience the in-person Cirque de De-Stress. It’s another one of the things that makes Emerson a little bit unique. A lot of places do therapy dog events, but we turn it into the Cirque.” 

As this is the first in-person Cirque de De-Stress since 2019, students are encouraged to stop by and either return to or get to know the event that has become a staple of Emerson’s campus. 

“Come in for as little or as long as you like,” Schneidermann said. “We want the library to be a resource for people at all times, so if you haven’t had a chance to come to the library before, this is a great time to start.” 

While some may worry that this event may take away from time that could be spent studying or completing assignments, Schneidermann said the event is strategically placed during this time of year so students can reap the most benefits. 

“The point of the event is to provide a brief break during what is always a stressful time for students,” she said. “That’s why we like to do it before the end of the semester. There’s a lot of ‘this is a really busy week for me.’ I know it’s hard for folks, but if we wait until all the deadlines are passed, then what do you need to destress for?” 

McGrath encouraged students to take this time as an opportunity to revitalize, explaining that productivity can only be increased by practicing self care. She explained that the Cirque de De-Stress event will be that final push for students to have the motivation and ability to finish the semester strong. 

“The benefit is that students can take a pause,” McGrath said. “With breathing meditations, with dog petting meditations, with mindfully sipping your hot chocolate, you can think about why you’re here, what your purpose is. Sitting there for 12 hours might not be as productive as taking a break and re-centering yourself. You have so many gifts, and taking a moment to pause and give yourself something that you need is going to help you go out there and share those gifts with the world, even if it just means writing that final paper.”