JMC conversation examines how to manage stress in college

Lauren Garczynski

Managing stress that comes with college life was the theme of the panel conversation hosted by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication Wednesday.

The “Stress is Not a Stigma” event was a continuation of the school’s four-year running JMC conversations that collaborate with the Student Voice Team.

The conversation examined the truth about managing stress in college, and university experts took questions from students and shared their own tips on how to maintain a healthy state of mind during times of stress.

Panelists included Lamar Hylton, the dean of students at Kent State; Jessica Williams, a psychologist at the DeWeese Health Center on campus; Melissa Celko, the director of Kent State of Wellness; and Holly Bandy, the outreach program officer for university health services.

Hylton said time management becomes key and critical in moments like the end of the semester.

“You need to be very mindful about how you divide up the day to do work,” Hylton said.

He advised students of a method to reduce stress in the long run: don’t get into the habit of holding off projects and assignments until the night before they are due.

“I was one of those people so it’s funny to give that advice when I was doing that sitting in your seats,” Hylton said. “Time management and how you plan your day can help you manage that stress that comes at the end of the year.”

Students may also find stress relief through physical activity and getting outside for a break from all of their work. According to the American Psychological Association, exercise fuels better mental health with the effect it has on neurochemicals that impact the body’s stress response.

“Every year after my freshman year I took some physical activity class,” Bandy said. “Anything that helps you break up the day can help you with stress. Exercise during exam week can help with that stress and anxiety too.”

The conversation featured an interactive element through polls, which could be responded to through attendee’s cell phones.

When asked what stresses students out the most, academics and school held a firm hold at the top. However, a more thought-provoking top stressor among students was discovered to be personal finances.

“Personal finance is a bigger issue today,” Celko said. “It’s a very uncertain world right now with students wondering how they are going to finance.”

Money is a significant factor contributing to stress among more college students as time goes on. Reminders of the need to maintain a good GPA are constantly enforced through scholarship requirements and financial aid.

For first-generation college students, the status of being a first-generation college student is a stressor, as individuals may find themselves in a strange place without guidance.

“I was first-generation college student in my family and I felt very lost,” Williams said. “It was important to get there and prove that I could do this.”

In dealing with this large amount of stress that comes with college, Celko said she believes it’s important to not give up but accept that stress comes with life and managing it is the fundamental idea.

“There is a certain level of acceptance you need to have that stress is now a part of your life,” Celko said. “Learning about how to manage time and how to deal with stress are skills you will use your whole life.”

The interactive polls showed students said they primarily manage their stress by confiding in themselves and detaching from people.

Celko, whose job entails offering resources for mental health, said students should find solace in talking to others.

“Embracing other people is probably at the top of your list,” she said. “When you can reach out to other people, it’s helpful because it’s probably not just you.”

Williams said this large segment of college students who choose to detach rather than talk about their feelings comes from bad past experiences with communicating their feelings.

Williams, who works with individuals to manage, articulate and cope with their stress, often hears students express this detachment as not wanting to burden their friends.

“It’s a gift you give when you are allowing someone to be supportive,” she said. “People who care about you want that opportunity to provide that care.”

All the panelists emphasized the importance of being open about the stress they face, as well as all problems affecting them.

Hylton said he noticed an increase in students reporting feelings of loneliness, which he believes evokes the need to detach.

“A natural inclination may be to detach because it feels the best,” Hylton said. “But it is best to surround yourself with people who can help you.”

Lauren Garczynski is the College of Communication and Information reporter. Contact her at [email protected].