April 29, 2013 12:00AM
It’s called Dead Week -- a time on university campuses when no unannounced tests or assignments are given, so students can prepare for finals and, for some, graduation. It is also quite possibly the most stressful time of the year for students.
Concerns over grades, projects due, job hunting, finances, and a wide range of other issues can boil over in these last days of the semester, according to mental health experts.
Christy Perez, a mental health counselor in Pittsburg State University’s Bryant Student Health Center, said the end of the semester does increase some students’ stress levels. She said talking about those stresses can be helpful.
“For anyone experiencing fear and feelings of being overwhelmed, it is important to talk about those concerns and fears,” Perez said. “Maybe that’s with a peer or maybe it is with a counselor. Do not continue to bury the feelings.”
Perez said that it sometimes helps just to know that others are feeling the same things.
“Many students here at PSU are dealing with the same issues, fears, and concerns,” Perez said, so it is important to remember they are not alone.”
J.T. Knoll, PSU prevention and wellness coordinator, said the importance of developing healthy ways to manage stress is one of the core messages that groups like Gorillas In Your Midst, an award-winning peer health education group at PSU, weaves into their communication with students throughout the year and throughout each student’s college career.
“Stress is part of life and a well-rounded college education should include learning first how to minimize stress and then how to deal with the stress that inevitably occurs,” Knoll said.
Links on PSU’s Prevention and Wellness page take students to extensive lists of tips for managing stress that range from visualization techniques and body relaxation exercises to advice on communication and when to seek professional help.
Although both Perez and Knoll say it is never too late to seek out help in coping with stress, they both say prevention is the much more desirable approach.
“Unfortunately, some students wait too long into the semester to get the help they need for a variety of issues including medical concerns or mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety,” Perez said. “This is one of reasons that Carrie Farrington, APRN on the medical side, and I try to do outreach early in Freshman Experience courses. We want students to know what resources are available for them and to encourage them to not wait until it is too late to seek help.”
Knoll and Gorillas In Your Midst also present to students in the Freshman Experience classes. They conduct informational activities throughout the year, set up displays on the Oval and in the student center and produce table tents for the dining hall.
“Some of the advice is deceptively simple,” Knoll said. “Eating a healthy diet, exercise and taking time for thought and reflection really are building blocks for a healthy and successful college career. It is important for students away from home for the first time to lay that foundation for success early on, but even those who haven’t can benefit.”
In the student center, Knoll said, students can find refuge and a place to decompress in the “Relaxation Room.
“There are five chairs that provide massage to aid in stress reduction,” Knoll said. “And the use of cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices is prohibited.”
Perez added that students feeling overwhelmed right now have a strong team of professionals on campus who are ready to give them a hand or sympathetic ear.
“We have great counseling services, medical services and career services on this campus who are here to help students as they work toward meeting their goal of graduation,” Perez said. “All a student needs to do is make the call.”
Student Prevention and Wellness
Bryant Student Health Center
University Counseling Services