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The Stress of College
It happens to all of us, even our kids. You probably saw this when they were studying for their AP exams or writing the dreaded college application essays. Well, balancing a full college schedule, football season, sorority, or fraternity rush, trying to maintain a social life, and learning to adult can bring on the stress that your student may not have experienced before. And as if all of that is not enough, 2018 brought Florida schools, hurricanes, and school shootings. Learning how to cope and handle lots of independent work, as well as dealing with natural disasters and violence made it hard for many students to know how to deal with that stress.
More students than ever are coming forward in need of help. In today’s world, the stigma of mental health help is nearly gone, as our country has placed a huge emphasis on identifying and implementing ways to help. Students as young as middle-school age are encouraged to talk, open up, and even tell an adult when they see that someone is struggling. Fortunately, that is being transferred to our now-college age students. The most common causes of anxiety in college include homesickness, financial worries, pressure from grades, and relationship problems, and of course social media. Family issues, illness, and trauma also play a part in the day-to-day mental health of a college student.
Fortunately, USF has wonderful resources to help students get through many types of stressful situations. The Counseling Center, which is a department of Student Affairs & Student Success, offers many programs, training, workshops, and therapy sessions to help students. They have between 23 and 25 full-time clinicians. Scheduled appointments are usually fulfilled in about 4 days, whereas at most universities, it is about 8 days. Walk-in students who are in crisis are seen within an hour and telephone support is always available during n0n-office hours. They have drop-in sessions that vary from art therapy, Learning to Let Go, Mindfulness Meditation, and Relationship Reality. Their services are free to USF students and completely confidential. Counseling services include group, individual, and couple’s sessions. Make an appointment.
USF has also implemented Mental Health Well-being for Success, or MWell4Success. This program has three tiers: increasing mental health literacy to all incoming students by providing training to them, extending the Counseling Center hours and creating satellite stations around campus for coaching, counseling, and relaxation; and implementation of coordinated care management for students with the greatest mental health needs. For things that students don’t need a therapist for, a health coach can assist. Sometimes students just need advice on time management or relationship skills. The three satellite locations are at USF Health, The Village residence hall complex, and the Marshall Student Center. Last year, 10,000 students visited a center! Posters are always on display all over campus to remind students that it’s ok to feel stressed and need help.
USF wants students to Build Your Inner Bull by taking advantage of services, workshops, and classes to help keep them mentally healthy. Campus Outreach and Consultation offer workshops, suicide prevention, mental health screenings, and more.
There are a series of videos made by USF for guided relaxation and meditation. Apps have become popular in the mental health world, and USF recommends some for specific needs like relaxation, reducing anxiety, and improving your mood. The Center for Student Wellbeing provides therapy dogs on campus yearly. They are brought during finals weeks to give students a chance to unwind with a puppy. Last year, they even brought llamas on campus that have been certified as therapy animals. There was a big buzz on campus about this, and those that missed it were very disappointed. Some of the apps that students use for managing stress include:
Headspace – Maybe this should have been the first one I wrote about. I use this one too because everyone deserves a mental break. For students who want to improve their mental health, not just maintain it, the Headspace app is the perfect place to start. It acts like a personal trainer for meditation, taking just ten minutes a day to guide your brain toward developing meditation muscle-memory. They offer a ten-day trial. If nothing else, the app is a daily reminder that for ten minutes a day, we all should calm down, breathe, dislocate from any stresses and surroundings, and try to focus on how we feeling on a deeper level. (Note: I included parents here too, because, well, the world would be a better place if we all did this.)
Meditation Oasis – Meditation Oasis includes podcasts, CDs, and apps connecting us with people from every walk of life and age group. Guided meditations are recommended by doctors and therapists.
MyWellness – This connects with most workout machines at the 3 USF recreation facilities and allows students to track their progress.
Myfitnesspal – Download and sign up for this popular fitness app. Search ‘Aramark on Campus’ and all menu items will be there. A great way to stay healthy and stay on track.
MindShift – MindShift is an app designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. It can help you change how you think about anxiety. Rather than trying to avoid anxiety, you can make an important shift and face it.
Tactical Breather – Tactical Breathing Trainer can be used to gain control over physiological and psychological responses to stress. Through repetitive practice and training, students learn to gain control of heart rate, emotions, concentration, and other physiological and psychological responses to the body during stressful situations.
Booster Buddy – Booster Buddy is a free app designed to help teens and young adults improve their mental health. Managing personal wellness journeys as you are guided through a series of daily quests designed to establish and sustain positive habits.
Like us, students need reminding that to help prevent stress, eating right, and getting enough sleep and exercise are essential. Avoiding energy drinks and too much caffeine can help ward off the crash that is inevitable. The Campus Rec Center has great classes for de-stressing; from yoga to dodgeball, there are fun ways to “escape” the stress of school. It’s easy for us as parents to tell them, but they will eventually learn to balance school and life.
There is no doubt that USF cares about the mental wellness of its students. They realize that the college experience can be stressful, and provide many ways to help. The key is asking for help and learning to work through it. And hey, a care package can always lift spirits! Check out our blog on care package ideas here.
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