Helping Students Cope with Stress

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The weeks preceding the holiday see quite a bit of media attention to practices student affairs professionals have adopted to help students manage the stress and study-load of exams week (for example, this piece in the Boston Globe). A number of colleges are trying "emergency stress relief" techniques such as bringing a masseuse or late-night yoga to the residence halls or offering a midnight breakfast during finals. These practices have become particularly popular over the last couple of years, given concerns over the rising mental health needs of students. The reality, however, is that for stress management programming to be effective, it needs to start with the first day of the term.

We turned to Sherry Benton, director of the University of Florida's counseling and wellness center and co-author of College Student Mental Health: Effective Services and Strategies Across Campus (NASPA, 2006), to learn how institutions can put in place more effective programs to help students cope with exam week stresses and build better coping skills throughout the term.

Benton offers these four tips for making your program effective:

  • Don't wait until end of semester to begin reaching out to students about stress management
  • To the extent possible, offer both good online resources and an array of awareness programs
  • Provide training and a solid resource packet for faculty
  • Use eleventh-hour stress relief exercises or events to both relieve exam week stress and promote your program, prompting students to get an early start on stress management next term

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