It’s no secret that college is stressful. With a combination of classes, work and on-campus involvement, the average college student has a lot on his or her plate. Throw in money problems, all-nighters and a steady diet of Dr. Pepper and ramen noodles and students have a disaster on their hands.
“When I’m stressed, I get tense, and when I’m tense, I get irritable,” said Amy Ball, a junior anthropology major. “I take a hot bath, drink some tea and read something just for fun. That helps.”
Mya Kennedy, a sophomore psychology major, said she’s feeling the stress. Because she is an Army cadet, her recent knee injury threw a wrench in her plans.
“I’m trying to get my GPA up, pass my PT test… it’s so hard when you’ve got all this going on and you don’t know what to do. It hurts, but I don’t want to quit.” Kennedy hasn’t sought counseling beyond medical care for her injury. “It probably could help,” she said, “but I don’t have time to do it.”
Licensed Master’s Social Worker Portia Granger is a counselor at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Student Counseling Services. She’s watched students crumble from stress.
“We’ve had students go into full-fledged panic from being overwhelmed,” she said. “We get a lot of freshmen having trouble adjusting to new responsibility, and seniors trying to find and adjust to the next chapter of their lives.”
Granger’s advice is for students to compartmentalize, prioritize and take care of their bodies. “How do you eat an elephant?” she asked. “One bite at a time.”
She said organizing tasks can make a student feel more overwhelmed. “I love to-do lists, but if you make a to-do list that stretches out six weeks, that’ll make it worse. Make a to-do list just for today. Scale back, so you don’t get overwhelmed.”
Granger also stressed physical health. “Self care is extremely important. Take care of yourself and yourself will take care of you,” she said. She recommends getting plenty of sleep and exercise; counseling and mental health can only go so far. “If you’re sleepy, malnourished, and not taking care of yourself, it’s like peanut butter with no jelly or Kool-Aid with no sugar. You can’t have one without the other.”
Whether students choose to seek counseling or rely on self-care, they should make sure they address their stress before it gets too big to handle. Don’t wait until a break-down during finals week.
For more information about Student Counseling Services, visit www.usm.edu/student-counseling-services or call 601.266.4829 to schedule an appointment.