Students Offer Backrubs To Bust Stress

‘Stressbusters’ providing free massages hope to expand services on campus

Karen L. Ding

“Stressbusters” like G. Andrew Conway ’11 from the Center for Wellness will be in Lamont Cafe every Wednesday to give free massages to students in need of a relief from studying.

Students stood in a small line in Lamont Cafe last night, awaiting the chance to decompress under the helping hands of the Stressbusters—a team of Harvard students offering free five to seven-minute backrubs.

The Stressbusters are currently offering backrubs in Lamont Cafe on Wednesdays from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., and they hope to make their services a weekly staple for overworked and over-tense students.

“We are very good-intentioned,” said Program Coordinator Vanessa Dremonas, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “We are not creepy strangers.”

Upon emerging from an “amazing” backrub courtesy of the Stressbusters, Victor M. Flores ’13 said that his shoulders felt less tense—a boon, he added, since he had a long night of midterm preparation ahead of him.

“It gave me a boost,” Flores said. “During times like this, when for some reason all of my papers are due at the same time, it is nice to have a break like this.”

Dressed in matching white T-shirts emblazoned with Stressbuster logos, the team—which consists entirely of students—rubbed the shoulders, backs, arms, and necks of willing clients.

“We all use the same pattern of techniques,” said Stressbuster G. Andrew Conway ’11. “We each have our own style.”

The Stressbusters showcase their personal styles through varied techniques, such as ‘Bladerunner,’ which begins with a massage at the base of the neck and eventually moves outward to the shoulders, according to Conway.

Other rubbing techniques include the ‘The Catwalk’ and ‘Texting Treatment’—the latter focusing on a massage of the forearms and hands.

“We are always texting or on the computer,” said Dremonas, adding that the ‘Texting Treatment’ can prevent help carpal tunnel syndrome. “You don’t think that your forearms are tense until you have someone work on them.”

Dremonas said that during former Stressbuster events, she had been surprised by students’ reluctance to leave their studies for a few minutes to receive free backrubs.

“It is a five-minute break,” Dremonas said. “It’s not tiring—it’s reenergizing.”

The Stressbusters also make appearances at events held by student organizations on campus. Last semester, the team offered backrubs at a study break in Annenberg Hall.

Wellness Center Director Jeanne M. Mahon said that she hopes to expand the group, increase its presence on campus, and eventually have a Stressbuster representative in every House.