Helping Your Student Deal With Stress

July 18, 2016

At one time or another, almost all college students experience some form of stress. Some may experience it early in their college experience; others at various times and closer to their graduation.

But there are two kinds of stress:  The kind that fuels inspiration, drives work and motivates students to succeed; and the kind that becomes overwhelming and impedes students’ progress in college.

It’s important to note that stress is a process that builds, and it is therefore more effective to intervene early rather than later.  Without help, stress can become overwhelming. This column is intended to help you understand how we help your students, and how you, in turn, can help your son or daughter manage college.

When or why do students become stressed to the point that it is unhealthy? It’s likely that there is more than one answer, but several commonalities exist.

Students can become stressed when they do not have enough time, or perceive that they do not have enough time, to do their honest best at college. Lack of sleep, an unhealthy diet and not making time to exercise or relax with friends will increase stress.

Students get stressed when their focus is too small or too narrow, and they can’t see an issue in the larger context of life. When college students experience great amounts of stress, they become overwhelmed.

Other common stressors in college include:

  • Greater academic demands than in high school
  • Being away from home
  • Being on one’s own in a new environment, with new responsibilities
  • Financial responsibilities, including preparing for life after graduation
  • Changes in family relations and one’s social life
  • Exposure to new people, new ideas and temptations

Other factors can compound stress, such as becoming ill, working many hours a week, or a chronic medical or mental health condition that requires extra time to do schoolwork.

Getting Help

The staff in MIAD’s Learning Resource Center helps students identify the issues creating their stress, and then steers students to resources to help them address it.

For example, if they are working many hours during the week and have little time to do homework between Monday and Thursday, we suggest that they change their work hours to allow them to keep up with homework and get at least seven hours of sleep.

We also work with them to set up a study calendar or schedule to make better use of time during each day, so that they can manage schoolwork and errands, and have time for self.

If a student is dealing with family or personal issues, we help them get an appointment to work with a counselor at Marquette University Counseling Center.  If they are ill, we ask faculty to provide support by extending current assignments.  Then we work with the student to help them set up a timetable to get caught up. If a particular subject, or if writing or conducting research, is slowing them down, we connect them with a tutor.

Whatever the identifiable stress factors are, we help the student address them so that they take control of their time and do their honest best, sleep, eat and create.

Suggestions for Your Son or Daughter

Following are suggestions that you can share with your son or daughter for managing college:

  • Create a living space with a place to focus and concentrate on schoolwork.  Have a desk where you can keep everything you need in one place. If roommates are noisy, find a place in the library or on campus to study. It is important to keep your living and study spaces organized.
  • Use a calendar so that you can visualize when you have time to do schoolwork, sleep, work at a job and have time for self and friends.
  • Use a planner or a small sketchbook to write what you have to do for homework (daily to-do lists) and when assignments are due.
  • Plan 20 minutes each day to be outside, exercise or just go for a short walk.
  • Eat a good healthy breakfast, and well-balanced meals with more whole grains, nuts, and fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid caffeine and reduce refined sugar consumption
  • Get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  • Spend time each day with one relaxation technique, whether yoga, meditation or other personally meaningful expression.

If your son or daughter contacts you and says they are stressed, at any time, please refer them to one of the Learning Resource Center professional staff:

  • Jennifer Crandall, Associate Dean of Students (jennifercrandall@miad.edu)
  • Sara Thor, Student Accessibility Coordinator (sarathor@miad.edu)
  • Cathryn Wilson, Tutoring Services Coordinator (cathrynwilson@miad.edu)

A final word on stress. If your son or daughter is experiencing stress that markedly affects or impairs functioning on a daily basis, he or she needs professional help.

If you are concerned about your son or daughter, please contact me at the above e-mail or by phone (414-847-3344), or Tony Nowak, Dean of Students, at tonynowak@miad.edu or 414-847-3240.

Jennifer Crandall, Associate Dean of Students

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