How are you managing your stress?

By Jessica Pitts

Staff writer

It’s crunch time. The countdown is under way to the last day of finals. Yet, when students answer the question “what are you doing to relieve stress,” many of them answer “procrastinating.”

Stress affects everyone. The key for college students is how to manage it, according to Jennifer Smith, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Campus Counselor.

And procrastination will never make Smith’s top 10 list for stress management.

As counselor at SMWC, Smith sees the other side of stress that not all faculty or other students would see. Going on two years in her current job, she assists students on a variety of issues. Substance use, anxiety, depression, stress management, academic concerns, and conflict resolution are just a few issues that Smith can help a student deal with.

Jennifer Smith

Here’s what’s stressing out faculty, staff and students around campus, and some advice for dealing with it.

Causes of stress at SMWC

Smith is seeing a lot of academic concerns around the time of midterms and up until finals.

“Once midterms hit and really once November hits, there seems to be this ‘oh my gosh it’s almost the end of the semester what am I going to do?’ kind of thing,” she said.

Along with the academic stress, social issues become a strong stress point. Smith believes that the social concerns relates to the academic load put onto the students.

“It seems like the closer we get to the end of the semester the more she said/she said type of drama seems to escalates a lot more with the end of the semester, which I think correlates with the fact that they are worrying about grades and school stuff so other things start to bother them.”

Finals, end of the semester and grades are a few things three current campus students know are stressing them out.

For sophomore Amanda Payton, it’s the unknown aspect of what will be on the test that has her worried. And the fact that she’s balancing work and school.

“Teachers haven’t really passed out what finals are going to be over yet, and qualifications are going to be to get an A.”

Kelsey Vanway

Kelsey Vanway, a sophomore accounting major, is juggling two major assignments due at the end of the semester.

“I have a ten page paper, and part of a 15 page paper due by the end of the semester.”

What Stress relievers are students using?

Ways to relieve stress can either be positive or negative.

“The healthy stress relievers  — the positive ones are taking time away from the things that are bothering you, take a little break, go do something relaxing for yourself,” said Smith.

Meaning, going on a run, going out to eat with friends, listening to music, or simply just leaving the situation.

Smith states that everyone has their own stress reliever; no two stress relievers are the same, what may work for you may not work for someone else. You have to find what works for yourself.

On the other hand, there are negative stress relievers as well, such as abusing drugs and alcohol, developing eating disorders, or even picking an argument with someone.

Some students however, are currently using a negative stress reliever—procrastination. This is an ineffective stress relief tip that is causing more grief in the student body.

Are they effective?

The positive stress relievers can only be effective if used properly.

“Often times I see people come in and say ‘Well I tried that one time and it didn’t work.’ Sometimes you have to try it more than once; sometimes you have to force yourself to do it,” Smith said.

Once you’re stressed, that can sometimes be the only entity running through your mind. Staying busy is a helpful tactic rather than just sitting around thinking about the problem.

Smith says, “It becomes a mind over matter at that point. To make something into a pattern, you have to sometimes force yourself to keep at it.”

Extra tips to improve stress?                       

“Don’t ignore it, if you starting to feel stress, recognize it,” Smith said.

People try to believe that if they ignore the problem then it will just go away, but then the problem can feel overbearing if not managed right.

Talking to a friend, faculty member, or the campus counselor can put into perspective of how large or manageable the problem maybe.

Sleep and eating healthy are key factors in managing stress accurately. With it being close to the end of the semester, students need to make sure they are taking these steps. Smith also recommends taking 20 minutes a day to do something for yourself that is non-school related.

“Take 20 to 30 minutes to exercise, read a book that’s non-school related, and visit with friends that’s not talking about a school project.”

How does someone find healthy food options on campus?

With options being limited, and unless you have food in your room, your only option is to eat in O’ Shaughnessy.

Smith suggests walking around the food court to look at the options.

“Don’t go for the first thing that goes ‘oh that looks really good,’ or ‘oh ice-cream! That looks like a meal,” she said.

The biggest problem is portion control. Watching how much of what you eat. Cutting out soda, fruit juice, and caffeine and drinking water will help immensely. All soda is, is empty calories and fruit juices are very high in sugar. Also try to cut out snacking, find healthier options when grocery shopping. For example, buy pretzels instead of chips.

What tips do you use to relieve stress?

Smith, a current Pinterest addict who tries finding the fun in life, finds that reading and talking to people helps her cope with the stress she has.

To help manage her stress, Smith will leave work at work; she does not want to take her work home.

“I go home and spend that time with my family. That is my relaxation time is when I am with my family.”

She also tries to keep things in perspective, what is important to work on today and what can wait until tomorrow.

During her lunch break, Smith will take 20 minutes to do something for herself, whether it is to close her office door to relax and breathe or pin on Pinterest during that time.

Smith wants students to realize that we can’t control everything in life. We can’t control or change everything, things are going to happen and we just have to learn to roll with the punches.

Quick tips for overcoming procrastination:

  1. Set small enough goals that you know you are able to complete, when you achieve that goal, you will feel successful.
  2. Once you complete a task, reward yourself with something.
  3. Make a to-do list or get yourself a schedule and maintain that.
  4. Make SMART goals

S-specific goals

M-measurable

A-achievable

R-realistic

T-timely

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