Monday, December 6, 2010

Ball State counseling center, health center offer tips to manage stress

It's getting closer to that time of year when hearts beat rapidly, sweat pours profusely and brains study intently.

Finals Week can mean seven days of high stress for students. The Counseling Center provides stress relief for those who need a little extra help managing the fiasco.

"School becomes much more of a priority for students to hammer out and get the grade they want," said Dr. Shana Markle, a therapist at the Counseling Center. "It is important for them to know themselves and not overbook themselves, knowing how to delegate their tasks, when to say yes, when to say no."

For students who want to manage stress on their own, Markle suggests relaxation exercises.

"Learning how to breathe. Breathing is very important to calm yourself and slow your body," she said.

Another stress reliever is progressive muscle relaxation — intentionally tensing muscle groups and releasing them in a systematic way.

Markle also suggests guided imagery, where someone in a calm voice has you picture a serene setting while using all your senses. If repeated, this can calm you.

"These can be really effective especially if stress is interfering with sleep," she said. "But the same thing doesn't work for everyone. If someone tries a guided image, it may make them more anxious and [they will] try harder to relax."

For students who want to take advantage of the Counseling Center's 12 free sessions, Markle encourages students to go to its office in Lucina Hall.

"We help students identify what stressors are, what exactly is going on," she said.

Sometimes stress can be so overwhelming that students suffer from physical pain.

Headaches as well as chest and stomach pain are the most common stress complaints, Kent Bullis, medical director at the Amelia T. Wood Health Center, said. It's hard to tell when the pain is related to stress, he said.

"When a patient comes in with pain which does not even remotely follow a typical pattern, we often times consider the possibility of stress as a cause of the pain," Bullis said.

The Health Center offers medication for relieving physical symptoms.

There is also a psychological aspect of stress. Unrealistic expectations are a problem for some students, Tricia Groff, a third-year doctoral student in counseling psychology, said. Doing too many things at one time and trying to do them all well is difficult.

"These people feel stressed from all the pressure they put on themselves to be perfect," she said. "They tend to say yes to a lot of requests that come their way."

Students are busy in college, making it difficult to figure out what is causing stress, she said.

"It becomes one bundle of stress and it might be an anxiety about something else," Groff said.

Sometimes stress is caused by the people around the person. Students should avoid constantly talking about school and issues that cause stress, she said.

"You aren't worried about a paper but everyone else is so you start to worry about your paper," she said. "We pass around stress without realizing it."

Call the Counseling Center to schedule an appointment at 765-285-1736

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