Sure, that old adage says there’s no such thing as a free lunch—but who cares when there are free back rubs to be had? Yep, that’s right—FREE. During “Take a Break Tuesdays” or “Wind Down Wednesdays,” a team of Stressbusters—nimble-fingered student volunteers—offer relief from each hectic, strain-inducing school week. (Catch a glimpse of their handiwork in the slideshow above.)

While only five minutes long, the back rubs can be highly effective. Volunteers—who undergo an intensive two-day training in Swedish massage techniques from a certified physiotherapist—start the session with some deep breathing exercises. Next they rub the client’s arms and shoulders softly, creating warmth in the muscles. Finally, some pressure is applied to the back and neck, followed by a wrist massage. “It’s a good way to get students to take five minutes out of their schedules to look after themselves,” says Maura Dentino, Stressbuster volunteer and junior at the College of Nursing. “It’s also relaxing for me to give the back rubs. It’s a very relaxing environment, and there’s usually some soothing music on.”

“Research shows that even a very brief back rub can reduce anxiety,” says Caroline Wallace, director of the Office of Health Promotion, which sponsors the program. Indeed, a recent study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology found that after five minutes of touch massage therapy, both heart rate and blood pressure decreased.

Stressbusters is just one way the university is working toward promoting stress relief for all on campus. The Mindfulness Project, an initiative of Global Spiritual Life at NYU, offers yoga and meditation classes throughout the week, as well as workshops and lectures on the subject.

LiveWellNYU is another resource that aims to help students, faculty, administrators, and staff find simple, everyday ways to improve their lives—from exercise opportunities to community building events. "Stress can be an obstacle to academic achievement," says Wallace. "Anything students can do to relax during their busy lives can help manage this."

—Anneke Rautenbach

Stressbusters offer free back rubs on Take-a-Break Tuesdays between 6pm and 7pm on the seventh floor of the Kimmel Center, and on Wind-down Wednesdays between 3:30pm and 4:30pm at the Health Promotion Office, 726 Broadway, third floor.


To apply to volunteer as a Stressbuster, click here.


Top photo: Nanci Healy

Slideshow: Sy Abudu