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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Opinion: Fighting Stress by Fighting Zombies

As we find ourselves immersed in trips to pumpkin patches and pretending not to steal early pieces of Halloween candy, we are also greeted by another autumn tradition — Humans vs. Zombies.

The week-long game of Nerf tag is no stranger to coverage. From broken windows to professors refusing to teach during the event, HvZ has always captured attention across campus.

But HvZ has a bit more to offer than the usual excitement of regular players and the amusement of new students. The game comes at a unique time, as at the end of October, students begin preparing for midterms and the important push through the second half of the quarter.

In short, it’s a busy time.

That said, it’s important for students to maintain some outlets for stress relief. It’s easy to say you’ll take a trip to the gym or go out for a night downtown break and then get caught up in all the projects and assignments and never actually go.

In a New York Times article, Assistant Management Professor John P. Trougakos from the University of Toronto Scarborough, compared mental concentration to a muscle. Like any muscle, the mind gets tired and begins breaking down if pushed too hard.

It’s a concept most students have heard many times — stress can be dangerous and can lead to a decrease in productivity and academic success. But it’s repeated for a reason, breaks are important.

For HvZ participants, those breaks happen to come in the form of running across campus Call of Duty-style, plastic blaster in one hand and balled-up sock in the other, stunning the hell out of other players.

It’s very therapeutic. Even staff at The Western Front have been known to keep a few Nerf guns handy for those extra stressful production nights.

But it doesn’t have to be campus-wide tag or even anything Nerf related. Everyone decompresses in their own way.

The important part is that the time is made for those breaks to be taken and enjoyed.

Whether that’s getting some exercise, reading a good book or shooting up some orange- or green-clad students with foam bullets, it’s all valuable.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, one of the most common mental health problems on college campuses are anxiety disorders. About 40 million adults suffer from an anxiety disorder in the U.S., and 75 percent of them experience their first episode of anxiety by age 22.

Western’s health center also lists a number of online resources regarding stress, anxiety and depression. The center also offers consultations is things ever get especially difficult for students going through tough times.

But there’s a lot students can do to help themselves not get too overwhelmed. One technique could be to find cues to remind yourself to relax. That’s where HvZ comes in.

Next time you’re laughing at the the crowds of players possibly taking the game too seriously, remember they’re also getting an escape from school while they stun each other in the face.

Whenever the zombies come out to play, let them remind you it’s important to leave some room for your own play time.

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