By Megan Jackman
Stressed out? Join the club
Finally, here it comes. The final push; the last four weeks of the semester. I can’t help but dedicate this piece to the most popular response I get lately when I casually ask fellow students how they’re doing: “I’m stressed out!”
I once received an e-mail from a student I was meeting for the first time that read: “I’ll be the guy sitting in a corner of the library pulling my hair out.” That was during final exams and, needless to say, he had described himself well.
A myriad of academic work combined with trying to eat properly and finding the time to get enough sleep often gets the best of students around this time of the semester. Lately I can feel the stress radiating from fellow students as I pass them in the skywalk; I probably even emit some of those waves.
Dawn Ward, a first-year nursing student at MUN, said that the most stressful time of her semester is the final exams period. “You are trying to study for all the different topics at the same time (during final exams). I try to work-out to relieve stress, but I never do it. Instead, I freak out and I don’t get much sleep.”
I interviewed Dr. Michael Doyle, an associate professor and counsellor at Memorial University’s Counselling Centre, to get a professional opinion on student stress and how we can try to deal with it.
Dr. Doyle refers to this last month as the “semester crunch.” It’s not that students are lazy when it comes to doing work; frequently it’s a matter of time and not having enough of it.
An important point that Dr. Doyle made is that we often fail to identify our physiological reactions to stress. Some students don’t realize they are frazzled and burnt out. Students may begin to rely on unusually immense amounts of coffee to get through the day, their alcohol consumption may increase, or they gradually eliminate breakfast meals. The fact is many students don’t consider new habits like these as signs of sleep deprivation, depression, or anxiety.
And, yes, I’m a student too. So, I know that some new tricks like inhaling coffee are all part of being in university.
Early in the semester, many professors will emphasize the importance of staying on top of their course material. But let’s face it, life gets in the way a little and many students are trying to balance a full course load with a job and family life. Dr. Doyle said, “Time management is a skill. Don’t think about work when you are relaxing. When you are out for a walk don’t worry about when your next assignment is due.”
It is never too late to recognize that you are being dragged down by stress. “Students have real issues,” said Dr. Doyle. “I try to help empower students, help them take ownership of their time.”
Based on student feedback, Dr. Doyle believes that students greatly benefit from seeking help, whether it is from professional counselling or talking to a close friend. He also explained that students learn from their mistakes and, in turn, continually learn how to better deal with worrisome issues, “Students are resilient, I truly believe in their resilience.”
It’s okay to have days when you are walking the munnels wearing your T-shirt inside out and last night’s pizza embellished on your blue jeans. If people do notice and stare, it is simply because they empathize with you.
Here is my take on the whole stress bit. Yes, things may seem really overwhelming at the moment. However, I’m willing to bet that there were many days in high school when you thought you would surely collapse under the weight of stress. And now look where you are university. Sure, your stress levels have probably skyrocketed since high school but my point is that you made it through.
The Counselling Centre, which is a part of Students Affairs and Services, is located on the fifth floor of the University Centre, room UC-5000. Some of the many resources they offer are one-on-one counselling, group counselling, outreach services (for programs for campus offices and groups), and crisis counselling for students seeking immediate help within less than an hour. These are resources which could be vital to the success of many students.
For more information on the Counselling Centre, you can contact them by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, 737-8874 (everything is confidential).