The ways people handle and deal with stress are as unique as their fingerprints.
What one student accomplishes by going for a five-mile run might be equivalent to another taking time to schedule out everything on a to-do list. Both activities are still considered by the Cal Poly Academic Skills Center to be some of the most effective tools for dealing with the pressures that come with college life.
Chandler Morehardt is an architectural engineering junior and is no stranger to the pressure that comes with being a college student. Though, when he sees himself dealing with stress in a negative manner, he is quick to put his struggles in perspective, he said.
“A big thing that I remember when I’m stressed is that, even a year from now, ‘Is this even something I’m going to remember?’” he said. “I can’t look back in the year and say times when I was stressed.”
Morehardt deals with stress proactively as well, as member of the triathlon club he can be found swimming, biking or running consistently, allowing for time away from school.
“It makes the body feel good, it makes the mind feel good — it’s an awesome way to get away from everything,” he said.
In addition, Morehardt will often make to-do lists even adding items he already finished to make himself feel accomplished.
The Academic Skills Center is located on the first floor of Robert E. Kennedy Library amd aims to give students the resources they need to find productive time and stress management skills.
“I would encourage all students to have a personal fitness program as part of their academic study,” Academic Skills Center coordinator Bill Sydnor said. “The key to stress reduction is personal fitness.”
Noting that finding a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is not only physically important but essential mentally. It allows your mind to refocus on tasks aside from school work. He also said fitness is not necessarily being involved with an athletic team or club but working out to maintain a base.
Dr. John Garcia is a physician at the Cal Poly Health Center who works with students who believe medication is the best option for dealing with their stress and depression. In his two years working on campus, he has seen stress being one of the most common reasons students end up at the Health Center, behind only colds and sore throats.
Oftentimes, students do not recognize their own stress at first, he said.
“Usually (students) are very locked into the idea that (their condition) must be a health problem, they must be ill or something,” Garcia said. “I take that very seriously, but if I don’t find anything, I’ll talk to them about how they are doing in school and the stresses in their life.”
Although academics is often one of the main topics that is discussed when dealing with stress, Garcia said he has noticed an uptick in students saying that money and finances have them more pressured than normal.
A New York Times report supported Garcia by stating that stress among first year college students had risen, due in part to the greater financial burden being taken on by students and their family in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.
To deal with all varieties of stress, no matter the cause, Garcia emphasized the importance of maintaining a large “social network.” Not in terms of Facebook friends or Twitter followers, but in terms of true friends that can discuss the pressures each person faces in a productive manner.
“It’s important to have people you can sit down with and say, ‘Oh gosh, I’m feeling overwhelmed. How did you get through this?’” he said. “Those sort of relationships are key to getting students through this experience.”
Morehardt agreed with Garcia when he said that even being able to vent to classmates about an assignment or a test, gives him a sense that he is not the only one facing challenges.
According to the website for the Academic Skills Center, stress most often causes negative physiological, behavioral and psychological changes in students affecting everything from academic performance to everyday relationships.
To avoid these symptoms, Morehardt said incoming freshmen should consider scheduling more than just their school-related activities, namely fun.
“I always wish I made more time for fun,” Morehardt said. “Scheduling helps a lot, having this big to-do list helps, but times that I was least worried about school were when I was just spontaneous. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous, college is not supposed to be hell.”