Live Wholly: The Stress-Free U.

    We students are in our “honeymoon phase.” However, tt’s not a honeymoon phase where people are falling into infatuations, but rather a temporary state of mind. Right now, college life seems exhilarating: meeting new friends, taking on challenging courses, living in the dorm, and discovering the breakfast burrito. The novelty of a new social biome can feel like an exciting adventure.

In addressing the current mental health of AU, Dr. Harvey J. Burnett, Jr., Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Behavioral Science Department, said that “right now, students and faculty are beginning the honeymoon phase. (There is) low-stress in the semester with a little pressure, (but) the real stress has not yet started.”

We are transitioning into our third week of school, but some of us (especially student leaders who have been here for at least a month) already feel exhausted. For others, the thrill of being a new college student is gradually fading away. You are learning to juggle classwork, new friendships with a brand new job. This is the beginning stage: low-stress U.

After this stage, “tests begin. (Students have their) reality check after their first test grade to see whether they need to revamp themselves or not,” Dr. Burnett said, “Then, we start to see the real panic and (students) ruminate over bad grades. From research, the majority of students experience higher level of stress because of procrastination.”

In a blink of an eye, it is mid-semester. Your grades aren’t where you want them to be, and your procrastination, your relationships and non-academic responsibilities are catching up to you. Stress levels increase rapidly. This is the stressful U.

Let’s remove ourselves from the pressures of right now. Imagine walking down the aisle of Pioneer Memorial Church beside your fellow classmates, who have been with you through every Organic Chemistry test, every early morning Hebrew lesson, every late night club meeting, or maybe every personal battle you had to face. It is your graduation, the last official day of your undergraduate experience, with the people who have been with you for the last few years. You are about to end your college experience feeling like a warrior because every day was a battle that you fought and survived. President Andrea Luxton finishes her final words and and the dean of each school begin to call each graduate's name. With anticipation, your name is called up and it is your turn to walk onto the stage to receive your diploma. Amid the crowd, your parents stand in the pews with tears of joy rolling down their faces because their child made it.

But before this glorious day happens, we have to get through today, tomorrow, next week or even that thesis portfolio. How many of us prepare ourselves with the end in mind? How many of us prepare for the days that are the most stressful? Do you prepare for stressful schedules?

Stress management is key to surviving and living the AU experience in fullness. On campus, there are several resources to guide your mission to manage stress. Through the University Health & Wellness Department, the Daily Wellness Theme recommends Stress-Free Sundays, which is the first reminder of the week to prioritize yourself and manage your stress. Instead of being engulfed by the heavy amount of stress, set yourself up to get rid of it.

Managing your stress does not need to stop on Sundays. Students struggle with multiple pressures throughout the week, and even until graduation day. Students often do not placing  mental health and stress remedies as a priority.

David White (senior, wellness) said, “Rarely do I think about my mental health. There's a good amount of pressure to get good grades and graduate, so whether I eat very little because I'm too busy or get less hours of sleep to study for a quiz (or) an exam seems to be more important right now. I know it shouldn't be, but that's life.”

The AU Wellness Initiative challenges the idea that life need not to be as stressful as some students experience.

“Caring for my mental health means planning ahead to avoid the stress of last minute things,” a member of the mission to be less stressed, Jordanne Howell-Walton (senior, psychology) said.  “Doing things like journaling, having friend dates with someone you can confide in, making sure you have a strong support group and taking time for yourself can make a huge difference in your mental health and all other aspects of your college experience."

On top of that, she and other peers recommend checking out the Counseling and Testing Center (CTC), which is located in Bell Hall. Learn more about its resources on the website: CTC offers online and on-campus resources that are geared to improve your mental health.

Besides the CTC, “be deliberate and intentional about your steps to de-stress,” said Dr. Burnett.

Seek out and take advantages of the options that AU provides to help you deal with stress. Rather than breaking down during finals week, AU provides stress reducers you can use now in the beginning of the semester. Find support groups, mentors, a Campus Ministry chaplain, any church pastor, resident hall dean or a confidant who is able to listen. Why not start off this semester with a stress-free U?


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