Combating Student Stress
College years are often painted as the best time of an individual's life. On television shows and in movies, college is portrayed as a worry-free time of partying, personal exploration, and classes that lead to successful, lifelong careers. Unfortunately, once students move into their dorms and begin classes, they often realize that life is not going to be as easy as they had originally anticipated, and some resort to unhealthy methods of stress reduction such as substance abuse. Nowhere was the endemic prevalence of student stress more evident than in the 2015 National College Health Assessment, which found that 85% of students reported being entirely overwhelmed by their responsibilities at least once in the previous year.
York College students are no different. They battle an immense amount of stress on a daily basis due to a variety of factors. Stephanie Jackman '17 (Scarborough, ME) felt overwhelmed when she stepped on campus and said, "I've dealt with stress ever since I started classes freshman year. I had a lot going on at the time and was struggling to get used to college courses that were too difficult for me. I began to doubt that my major or even my decision to go to college had been the correct choice."
Meanwhile, Sarah Wolf '17 (Dover, PA) explained why she felt pressure. "Between my 18-credit course load, my internship, and my countless other obligations to both friends and family, I feel like I'm constantly being pulled in a million directions and that the tension never ceases."
In addition to attending classes, many students need to work in order to pay for their tuition. This puts an even heavier burden on already overwhelmed students. Sharlene Roberts '17 (Westminster, MD) said, "Being a college student is very stressful, especially when you work. I go to classes and then work eight-hour days and then have to come home and do homework. I never feel like I have enough time to get everything done."
Umbar Kassa '18 (North Potomac, NJ) emphasized the value of friends. She said, "I personally believe that when you talk to a friend and you work on that stress together rather than putting all that pressure on yourself, you can look around and realize that you’re not alone. Once you realize that everything needs a balance then your motivation to use stress as a means to accomplish your goals will be more of a little rock to step over rather than a boulder holding you down."
On their own, students like Jackman, Wolf, Roberts, and Kassa find various ways to cope with the pressures of college life. Because stress is so highly individualized, the myriad ways in which students choose to address it varies from person to person. For Wolf, a long run around the track at Grumbacher is the best way to unwind after a hard day. Meanwhile, Jackman finds great relief from listening to relaxing music and cuddling with adoptable animals at pet stores and shelters. A fun night out with friends is Roberts' favorite way to decompress at the end of a long week. Besides longboarding and talking to friends, Kassa meditates to calm down her heart rate and hone in on what is really causing her stress.
Members of the YCP community are well aware that many students deal with significant levels of stress and have taken a variety of steps in order to provide them with healthy ways to cope with life's pressures. With its combination of one-on-one counseling, weekly groups, and events, YCP's Counseling Services is the College's greatest resource for overwhelmed students. Jessi Nocella, Assistant Director of Counseling Services, explained, "Stress is one of the top five reasons students come to see us, and at least 50% of students come here for something related to stress. With stress being one of the main reasons why students come in, we have had to develop a variety of ways to approach it."
One-on-one counseling is a powerful tool in helping students to handle life’s pressures. The College employs highly trained counselors who help students to overcome those times when they are feeling completely overwhelmed. In particular, the counselors approach stress from a solution-focused point of view. They work with students to identify the source of their stress and to evaluate whether or not it is something they can control. They then help the students to develop strategies to cope with and manage it.
In addition to one-on-one counseling, Counseling Services offers groups for students dealing with a variety of issues, including excess stress. In the weekly group "Just Breathe – the Art of Mindfulness," counselors help students to become more aware of and more comfortable with their stressors. They learn that instead of ignoring or distracting themselves from the stress, they are better off working through it and taking it to a point where it is manageable. At the end of the session, students are more able to identify, tolerate, and minimize the stressors in their life.
Events are another crucial way that Counseling Services helps to alleviate student stress. During "Paws and Relax" this past fall, students flocked to the Wolf Hall lawn to hug and pet-friendly therapy dogs of all shapes and sizes. Delighted to take a break from classes and cuddle with the dogs, Rachel Robertson '17 (Wilmington, DE) said, "I love having dogs on campus because they act as a huge de-stressor for me. Being able to take my mind off of all my worries for even a few minutes is huge." Counseling Services also holds events such as "Lei Back and Relax" in December during Reading Day where they help students to de-stress by hosting a Hawaiian-themed luau intertwined with useful tips for relaxing during final exams.
In addition to Counseling Services, YCP's Campus Activities Board (CAB) is instrumental in helping students deal with the pressures of college life. One evening before final exams begin, CAB hosts Stressbusters, a time of relaxation for students when they can snack on their favorite breakfast foods, sit in massage chairs, listen to relaxing music, play bingo, and make fun crafts like key chains, bracelets, and magnets. Stressbusters offers students a well-needed break as Chantel Vereen '17 (Central Islip, NY) said, "We never truly have time to stop everything and recover from our long hours of hard work throughout the semester. Stressbusters gives us that time, and it is truly a blessing."
Stress is a serious, widespread issue among college students that can have devastating consequences if not properly addressed, and YCP has gone a long way to ensure that students have the resources they need in order to handle the pressures of life in a healthy way. Whether it's someone to talk to, a dog to cuddle with, or an evening of bacon, bingo, and arts and crafts, York College students need not look far for relief when they are feeling overwhelmed.