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March 19, 2022

Navigating Stress as a Student

A variety of resources are available to University College students

By Danielle DeGroot, University of College Writer

Collegiate mental health has long been an area of importance, COVID-19’s impact on students has only highlighted the need for access to mental health resources and care. Navigating the educational journey brings with it many challenges; one many students experience is stress. Healthily managing stress as a student is a key factor not only in success in education but also for long term mental health.  

Stress is a natural part of life and impacts people in many different ways. Knowing what to do to manage stress and stay healthy, even knowing when to ask for help can be intimidating and add to the impact stress has on collegiate mental health. Every level of student from undergraduate, graduate, law, and doctoral students all encounter stress. One important thing to remember is that stress is normal and unavoidable. Everyone experiences stress, and it can come from many places. Sometimes it comes from classes, work, family, even positive changes like new jobs and love interests can cause stress. At times stress can even serve us positively, like when we are excited. 

A recent webinar featureing Jacaranda Palmateer, director of the Counseling Services department, and Ellen Winiarczyk, academic director and teaching assistant professor of the Nonprofit Leadership program, examined some of the student data about stress and mental health, reviewed stress management strategies, and identified situations that may necessitate seeking additional help.

What is stress?  

“Stress is a state of mental or emotional tension or strain resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” 

  • Stressors – External environmental circumstances  
  • Stress Response – One’s internal emotional/behavioral/physiological reaction to environmental circumstances.  

Stress brings with it both mental and physical effects, that can impact one’s ability to meet their goals, and move forward. People under stress can experience: 

  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Fatigue 
  • Worry an anxiery
  • Poor or increased appetite
  • Imposter syndrome 
  • Impacts on personal relationships with friends and family 

“Looking at the graduate students were looking at you know, in the last 12 months stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties are impacting folks that are pretty significant level,” said Palmateer. “But I think imposter syndrome is is a huge one right now. I hear all the time that people are asking ‘how did I get into the school and I’m just not as talented as other people,’ which of course, everyone else is thinking, as well. You aren’t alone.”

Palmateer also sees students forgetting to take care of themselves during stressful times when it’s actually the most important. That includes the pressure they put on themselves.

“I think a huge stressor is unrealistic expectations and this idea of perfectionism and having so much pressure to perform a certain way.”

Coping With Stress 

According to Palmateer, there are two ways that people can start to handle stress: 

  • Identify stressors, then address and adjust life circumstances to eliminate stressors.  
  • Address individual patterns of emotional/behavioral and physical responses to stress.  

There is no one strategy that works as a one size fits all solution to stress, different stressors will need different strategies, and every person’s circumstances will dictate the best response for them.  

In general, there are some actions students can take to reduce stress, these include better sleeping habits, eating healthy, exercise, restorative practices like yoga or mediation, time management, relying on friends and family, identifying stressors, knowing when to ask for help, and prioritizing things that are most important.  

The University of Denver and University College keeps student mental health as a top priority and provides a variety of resources to support student mental health.  

  • One resource available to all students is the My Student Support Program, (My SSP) a free 24/7 support system available through chat, phone, and app. This program can help immediately with day-to-day concerns. Call 1-866-743-7732 or visit us.myissp.com
  • The University of Denver runs the Health and Counselling Center, HCC providing a variety of mental/behavioral health and counseling options for qualifying students. These include same day/ crisis services, as well as individual, couple, and group counseling. Learn more about HCC locations and services at https://www.du.edu/health-and-counseling-center.  
  • Student Outreach and Support Programs: https:www.du.edu/studentlife/studentsupport/ These programs aim to assist student success by connecting them to resources, developing a plan of action to meet their goals, and aiding in navigating challenging situations. 

Additional Crisis Resources 

Colorado Crisis Services: 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK “to 38255. 

Crisis Text Line: Test “BRAVE” to 741741 

www.stevefund.org/crisistextline/ Text “STEVE” to 741741 

Resources for healthy lifestyle choices:  

www.goodfoodnearyou.com 

www.eatingwell.com 

http:/self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/mediations/LKM.MP3 

Navigating and handling stress is a normal part of the collegiate journey, but you do not need to do to try to get through it alone. If you need support dealing with stress, do not hesitate to reach out to one of the above resources. 

You can access the full webinar at https://udenver.zoom.us/rec/share/r–PE1eEHPL6P3FC6DKdFPxiigu66TueURjqmZXMQjGcbCBm30kUR6tiKtC63n1r.ySnhdzbhebDXmft5. Password: aNju!mb8.

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