by Michelle Lawler, SCSU Counselor
All of us experience stress in our lives. Good stress (eustress) can be a positive influencer in helping us to feel motivated, achieve our goals and perform at our best. But negative stress exists when pressures become too intense and overwhelming — impacting our overall well-being — and when we neglect healthy lifestyle choices and good self-care.
Most students suffer a rise in stress levels especially this time of the academic year, when mid-term exam grades are in and students are busily working on their end-of-semester writing assignments and preparing for final exams. With the holidays quickly approaching, many students also have the added pressure of worrying about jobs and finances during the semester break. Learning stress management techniques is a proven way for students to navigate through pressures, tensions and anxieties and maintain good emotional and physical health.
Some warning signs that stress is having a negative impact on your student’s well-being include:
- Complaints about the inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- Having no appetite or eating too much
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches and tension, frequent colds
- Being impatient
- Lack of concentration and feelings of being overwhelmed lasting more than a few days
Poor stress management is a leading impediment to academic success. Research also shows that students’ ability to stay in school and perform at their best is closely linked to their emotional well-being.
As parents and guardians, you can encourage your students to practice good stress management and healthy self-care by encouraging them to:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat healthy and regularly
- Exercise 30 minutes a day
- Take breaks with friends
- Minimize their consumption of caffeine
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Talk things out with trusted supports
- Take a deep breath(!)
- Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, listening to music, coloring, and doing something fun
Talk to your students about being realistic about their time commitments and not overextending themselves with extra-curricular activities when there are academic priorities.
Advise your students to seek support through the various resource offices on campus that can help with stress management, and remind them that it is a sign of strength to seek help from professional supports if they are having a difficult time managing on their own.
Be an active listener. Try to become aware of the difference between everyday stress and harmful anxiety. Recognize warning signs and share this information with your family members. Above all, be patient if your student does not seek help right away, and don’t be afraid to reach out to members of the campus community for help. The Student Affairs professionals are here for them, and we are trained, ready and eager to help!
Some useful tips on how to start conversations with your student can be found here.
Also, here is a good mental health resource to share with your college student.