Most of us would agree that April is the most stressful month of the entire school year. Tests, papers, upcoming final exams, and other academic deadlines converge with various year-end activities as well as with long-awaited responses from graduate schools, potential employers and internships.
Whether you are preparing to walk the Lawn in May or simply moving from your first to your second year, the spring is a time of transition. It is normal to feel some degree of stress and anxiety. What is important to remember is that resources are available to help should you need them. You can also take steps to maintain your own health and safety.
Symptoms of Stress
How do you know if stress is affecting you in negative ways?
The symptoms of stress include: irritability; self-medication (by using over-the-counter medications, alcohol, or food to combat stress); a compromised immune system; feeling as though you don’t have time to relax; exhaustion, a lack of energy or a sense of dread; memory problems; an inability to concentrate; poor judgment; seeing only the negative; anxious or racing thoughts; and constant worrying.
Thoughts of harming oneself or others represent stress and depression in the most extreme form. While every thought may not lead to action, it is important not to dismiss such thoughts you may be having or such comments you may be hearing from friends or peers, especially if they are recurring.
Where to Call for Help
If you see patterns of stress and depression in your own life, or in your friends’ or peers’, it is important to seek help. Several offices at the University are available around the clock. They include:
- Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 434-243-5150 for appointments; 434-972-7004 for after-hours emergencies. For more urgent needs, walk-in services are available Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Office of the Dean of Students: 434-924-7133 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; after hours, call University Police and ask to be connected with the dean-on-call who is available 24/7.
- University Police: 434-924-7166; 911 for emergencies.
- It is important to remind you that students who call 911 for medical emergencies will not face disciplinary action for doing so. It is critical that you always get immediate medical help for yourself or your friends. Even a brief delay in calling 911 can be critical.
Positive Steps for Dealing with Stress
As you approach the final weeks of the semester, please remember many of the basic steps that will help you approach stress in a healthy and safe manner:
- Eat well, get as much sleep as possible, and keep up an exercise routine.
- Watch your intake of alcohol. Negative consequences from alcohol use range from missed classes to sexual activity that is later regretted or deemed to have lacked consent. Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant, and recent studies show it can have dramatic, long-term effects on the brains of individuals in their late teens and early 20s. The combination of alcohol and stress is not healthy.
- Use prescription drugs as prescribed by your doctor. Recent indicators show that students may be sharing prescribed psychostimulant medications such as Adderall and Ritalin. This is not safe. Only you should be taking drugs prescribed for you, and you should be taking them according to your doctor’s directions.
- Maintain your personal safety as the weather and daylight hours improve. When the weather is beautiful at 3 a.m., you may be tempted to walk home alone, but this is not a safe or smart move.
- Look for perspective and balance in your life. If you find this difficult, or if you are unable to talk with family or friends, then call one of the resources listed above.
Mental Wellness Screening
Sponsored by CAPS
April 14, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Newcomb Hall, Room 168.
Next Wednesday, students will be able to stop by Newcomb for a five-minute, anonymous mental health screening conducted by CAPS staff. Participants will receive immediate feedback about the results. The first 24 people will be treated to free pizza, and all will be invited to enter a raffle for free food on the Corner. You can also go online now for anonymous online screenings and information about emotional well-being.
In closing, I wish you well as you finish up the semester. Please know that we are here to support your success and that it is never a sign of weakness to ask for help, either for yourself or for a friend. When debating whether to ask for help or to remain silent, asking for help is the better choice.
Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer