Students cope with stress as semester ends

Mary Wardell

With only three weeks left in the semester, it’s officially crunch time for NMU students.

Health Promotions Specialist Lenny Shible said there are a wide range of stress-related issues he encounters at the Health Promotions Office (HPO) like procrastination, issues at home, legal problems due to their decisions, substance abuse and domestic violence.

“Oftentimes, it can feel like you’re dealing with everything at once,“ he said.

HPO offers nonjudgmental support, information and referral, he said.

“Awareness and information are the first step to help you hopefully sort out what kind of changes in behavior might be beneficial,” Shible said.

Students should make a plan and allocate time for schoolwork, he said. He offered advice for people distracted by difficult stressors like relationship trouble or substance abuse.

“If it’s all you can focus on, set up a plan where you set aside time to focus on the stress for a few minutes each hour,” Shible said. “If your reading is just not sinking in, one tactic that might help is spend 45 minutes reading, then 15 minutes to think about everything else, write up a plan, then go back to concentrating on work.”

Almost a quarter of college students meet medical criteria for alcohol or drug addiction, according to the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse.

Senior nursing major and HPO intern Zack Hagner said the academic pressures drive some students to abuse “study drugs,” prescribed for ADD and ADHD, which are risky when misused.

“Well, first, they’re illegal,” he said. “If you get caught, you’re looking at a scheduled drug violation, which is really serious.”

According to the DEA, Adderall is a schedule II drug, defined by a “high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Even for coffee, Shible said students should be careful when and how much their dosage is, because of the potential for crashing right before a test or presentation.

“Use the information accessible online and on smartphones, so you don’t misuse a product or prescription,” he said. “Get as much information as possible from reputable sites, to be aware of the risks. Dot-gov sites are especially good.”

Shible recommended campus resources like the counseling and tutoring centers for students coping with stress in their personal lives or with school work.

Tutoring center employee Chris Flori, a senior accounting and corporate finance major, said he hasn’t noticed significantly more stress in the students he works with, most of whom he said are regulars.

“They’re probably less stressed in their classes because they’re getting more practice [at the tutoring center],” he said.

The center can offer the benefit of another perspective for how to understand the material, he said.

“If [students] aren’t getting material, it doesn’t hurt to ask for help,” he said. “An outside voice, outside of just the professor.”

He also recommended students not rush through their studying or be distracted by social media, because lack of focus hurts comprehension and retension of the material.

“Thirsty Thursday’ never helps,” he said.

Assistant professor of nutrition in HPER Lanae Joubert emphasized that staying hydrated is critical to dealing with finals and stress.

“We often like salty, crunchy things when studying to keep alert,” she said. “Water is importnat to stay healthy.”

Fruits and vegetables are important to include in your diet, she said, as well as keeping up activity levels.

“If you study while moving, you’re more apt to retain what you studied,” she said.

Joubert recommended visiting the PEIF and bringing a book to read while walking on the treadmill or riding a bike, or students can record lectures for their ipod while they walk or hike.

She said it’s helpful to break up studying with stretching, yoga, meditation or breathing exercises.

Researchers at the University of Illinois this year found “a single, 20-minute session of Hatha yoga significantly improved participants’ speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and inhibitory control,” reported the Illinois News Bureau. The study found the yoga participants performed better than those who participated in vigorous aerobic exercise.

“College is a big financial investment for families and a big time investment,” Shible said. “So it’s important to try to get as much value out of that investment as possible.”