Stress Management and Stress Awareness in Campus

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Problem

Stress is the body’s response in dealing with a situation, and can affect people from multiple age-groups. The severity of a situation is directional proportional to the amount of stress a person experiences. Stress is not always harmful – it can provide motivation to overcome challenges, or prepare for a fight-or-flight response in a dangerous situation (Overcoming Stress, 2018). However, a prolonged exposure to stress can be detrimental – both physically, and psychologically. The constant strain from stress is linked to frequent headaches, insomnia, viral infections, compulsive behavior, and in some cases, suicide.

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According to a survey published by the American Psychological Association (Bethune, 2014), teenagers and students reported experiencing a higher level of stress than adults. It was shown in the study that teenagers received fewer hours of sleep than adults. Additionally, 30 percent of students reported feeling sad or depressed because of stress, and 23 percent said that they have skipped meals undergoing stressful situations. School is usually a major proponent in causing the stressful situations that students experience. Students usually report being overwhelmed by the amount of homework they are assigned. One of the most stressful experiences that students experience is towards the end of the semester during finals week.

According to (Elias, Ping, & Abdullah, 2011), students report higher levels of stress during finals week due to the increased pressure of having one final exam that would play a significant role in shaping their total grade point average. Other stressors include having to study or revise course material for multiple-subjects while not having enough time to finish due to the scale of the workload. Some students also reported taking in supplements such as caffeine and energy drinks to compensate for fatigue from the lack of sleep due to stress. Although caffeine can provide an immediate jolt of energy initially – higher levels of caffeine has been linked to causing atrial fibrillation, anxiety, and increased hypertension – including among students (Jin & Ko, 2016).

Therefore, it is important for institutions to recognize and provide enough resources to students – especially during finals week. However, considering that a large majority of students experience a higher level of stress during this week, there may not be enough resources that could be shared amongst students. At the local level, the main institution that deals with students experiencing stress at the University of Florida is the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC).

The CWC provides a range of services to students dealing with stress throughout the semester. These services include group counseling sessions along with individual counseling sessions. The group counseling sessions for stress managements happen once a week and work at a first-come first-serve basis. Similarly, the individual counseling services are also first-come first-serve based on appointments. Students who typically learn from their past patterns are usually quick to schedule sessions with the counsellor weeks in advance – knowing that they typically require more help during finals week. However, students who usually procrastinate, or have less experience with booking counseling sessions are usually left out since most of the appointment time-slots have already been fulfilled. Typically, these are also the students who suffer from the higher levels of stress considering they probably would have procrastinated their work until it began piling up during the finals week.

Hence, for the students who would not have access to individual counselling sessions, their next resort is to rely on the group counseling sessions. Given that the group counseling sessions are also on a first-come first-serve basis, and the fact that students usually are not satisfied after group counseling sessions since there is a lack of personal connection where they can share their problems on a personal level, students are then left with no other choices. These students then begin to spiral down with the built-up stress and anxiety and having no other resources being provided to them. In rare cases, these students are often also the ones who attempt suicide.

Solution

There are many solutions that can be implemented by the University of Florida and the CWC to help the students undergoing stress during finals week.

Stress-awareness camp

The CWC currently has a health-camp bus that appears at a destination across the campus and stays there for a few hours a week before moving onto the next destination. The topics that the health-camp discuss are usually miscellaneous and range from healthy eating and couples counseling. Hence, the proposed solution is that UF – in conjunction with the CWC – employ multiple stress-based buses where students or professionals can provide services to other students. These services could range from general knowledge about how to cope with stress during finals week, while also providing information pamphlets and miscellaneous items such as stress balls and lavender moisturizers to students.

The stress-awareness camp could also provide students with resources on what kinds of foods to eat (apples, leafy vegetables, non-greasy foods) during finals week and what foods to generally avoid (large caffeine intake, fatty foods). Additionally, students could also take part in activities such as painting or crochet – to distract them temporarily from their stress and relax. If there is a high enough budget, counsellors could also show up occasionally to provide spontaneous walk-in sessions with individuals who would require help.

Online counseling

Currently, there is no resource that is available online for students who are experiencing a stress during finals week. After visiting the Counseling and Wellness Center website, students are provided with different times for which they can schedule an appointment in-person with a counsellor. This usually dissuades students into visiting mostly because of how much they would have to travel in order to meet with a counsellor. If there was an optional method where counselling could be done online where the counsellor could directly communicate with the student – that might help students who are feeling shy initially or just too busy to make the trip to the counsellor’s office.

Additionally, providing counselling for students online could also be helpful in cases where counselling could be outsourced to other psychologists that are not a part of the CWC. Currently, there are many psychologists who are not affiliated with an institution that provide counseling to students. Establishing a portal where these psychologists can communicate with the students would help increase the accessibility of students to resources.

Increased group sessions

Currently, there are many group counselling sessions that run at the CWC office. The sessions on a daily-basis depending on the theme. Usually, stress-based group sessions typically occur on Tuesdays between 6:00pm-8:00pm. Although most undergraduate students would be done with their courses around this time, there could still be a few students who would still have classes scheduled during that timeslot. Having classes scheduled during the timeslot would imply that they would not be able to attend the group counselling session.

To solve this problem, the CWC could host a higher frequency of group counselling sessions throughout the week especially during the finals week or month. Not only would this solve the problem of people not being able to attend because of clashes in their schedule, it would also solve the problem of people not being able to sign-up before the session gets full.

Forum for discussion

The UF could also host an online forum for people struggling with stress. The forum could have people discussing their own personalized tips for dealing with stress or have people asking other people for advice on how to approach stressful exam situations. These forums could be monitored by the CWC counsellors to ensure that the students stay on the same topic of stress management and do not divulge into other topics. Additionally, the counsellors could also monitor the answers or posts that people make to ensure that the students provide well-written/well-researched content for their peers. The forum could also help students who would probably be feeling alone given that finals week is close to the holiday season – where students would be able to make friends with other students who would also be feeling lonely.

Online videos

Students suffering from stressful situations typically resort to online resources such as articles or videos on YouTube. The videos on YouTube are sometimes made by amateurs who just give their own opinion on dealing with stress without any studies or research backing what they say. Students who follow their advice may not benefit entirely given that the suggested methods would have no proof of them working. Instead, the CWC counsellors could make their own series of videos where they can provide their professional advice backed on research and experience – on ways in which the students can cope with stress. The benefit of having these videos available to students online is that they can watch the videos in the comfort of their own home. Additionally, they can re-watch videos that they find important multiple-times.

Feasibility of solution

To solve the issue of students suffering from stress during the finals week, many solutions were proposed. This section deals with understanding the feasibility of the solutions and whether they could be implemented given the scope and the time.

The stress-awareness camp is a solution that can be considered if the budget is high. Currently, there are many students who work at the CWC and have worked as volunteers for the camp for different subjects. Training these students to go over the new stress-management principles would take a day considering that they would just be relaying the information written by the CWC counsellors to the students. If the budget is even higher, individual counsellors could still host sessions at the camp. However, given the limited time-slots that they have, more counsellors would need to be hired depending on the amount of interest received at the camp.

The online counselling solution was another solution that could be considered with a high budget. Psychologists and counsellors have been counselling students online for a long time. The only thing that would change is that these psychologists would now be affiliated with the University of Florida. Students would still not have to pay an additional amount to access these services. However, given the high cost of out-sourcing psychologists, a small fee of $10 could be charged as a “convenience fee” for online counselling sessions.

The increased group sessions idea would not necessarily require a large budget to operate. The solution could be fixed by having multiple-sessions throughout the day with the same psychologists. Instead of having sessions on ‘couples-counselling’ or ‘career planning’, psychologists could cancel these themes during final week and divert all their attention on just dealing with stress. This would allow more resources to be made accessible to the students and solve the problem of people not attending group sessions over clashes and time-limitations.

The forum for online discussion also would not require a significant budget. It can have the same layout as the current e-learning website forum that is available for most UF subjects. Students can participate in group-discussions by themselves and there could be just a few student moderators ensuring that the topics are related to stress and stress-management and one CWC staff as a supervisor to ensure that the advice that is given to other students is reasonable and well-researched.

Lastly, the online videos can also be made with a low budget. It would require multiple sessions with one or more counsellors at first, but after the videos are recorded, they just need to be uploaded online where other students can access them. Initially, just one 1-hour session could be taped for the students, but over time, more videos can be added to the series where multiple CWC counsellors can provide their input.

The purpose of this paper was to define a proposal that can create a real change. The defined proposal was based on the high-level of stress that students experience during finals week and the lack of resources that are provided on campus for these students. Multiple solutions were provided which ranged from introducing a stress-awareness camp, providing online counselling to students, having multiple-group sessions, creating an online forum for discussing stress and providing online videos to students. The feasibility of these methods were also discussed in terms of their scope, how much time they would take to be implemented and the overall budget of each proposal.

Bibliography

  1. Bethune, S. (2014). Teen Stress rivals that of adults. Monitor on Psychology, 20.
  2. Elias, H., Ping, W. S., & Abdullah, M. (2011). Stress and Academic Achievement among Undergraduate Students in Universiti Putra Malaysia. International Conference on Education and Educational Psychology, 646-655.
  3. Jin, M.-J., & Ko, H.-J. (2016). The relationship of caffeine intake with depression, anxiety, stress and sleep in Korean Adolescents . Korean Journal of Family Medicine, 111-116.
  4. Overcoming Stress. (2018, 11 28). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml 
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Stress Management and Stress Awareness in Campus. (2022, Sep 07). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from
https://studydriver.com/stress-management-and-stress-awareness-in-campus/

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