At Mason, we are committed to the success and well-being of our students. We recognize that you may find yourself particularly susceptible to stress and anxiety related to academic pressures during this time of the semester.
Of course, not all stress is bad. At moderate levels, stress can help us stay motivated and maintain focus. However, persistent and/or intense stress can reduce our ability to function effectively, which can interfere with personal and academic goals. For some, stress related to academics may occur simultaneously with any number of life challenges such as relationship concerns or financial hardship. For a few people, stress may even intensify into feelings of depression, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Fortunately, there are healthy strategies to help you manage stress during tough times…
- Stay connected. This can be tough to do, especially when we start feeling bad. However, when we isolate ourselves, we tend to feel and think things are even worse. So reach out and ask for help when you need it. Equally important is being able to give support to others. If someone you know seems to be going through a difficult time, reaching out may be more helpful than you imagine.
- Take back some control by directly confronting stressors and creating a plan. Write down what is causing you stress and develop some specific solutions within your control for addressing them. Confronting stress can cause a temporary increase in stress, but getting a plan down on paper will reduce stress in the long-run for most people. A plan can include gathering more information about options and asking for help.
- Identify and change unhealthy coping strategies. Stress can lead us to start doing things we know are not healthy (such as eating poorly or using alcohol or other drugs). It can also lead us to stop doing things we know are healthy (such as exercising or getting enough sleep). While it can be tempting in the short run to rationalize such behavior, the result is usually an increase in our stress rather than a decrease.
- Take advantage of the help that is available. There are numerous resources available at Mason to help you manage stress and difficult times. Below are a few critical resources that we hope you take advantage of – and don’t wait until you are really stressed; instead, pick up the phone or drop by when you start to feel a little overwhelmed so that you can get assistance early on and maintain successful progress toward your personal and academic goals.
- Counseling and Psychological Services: Staff are available to speak with you anytime about emotional or personal concerns that you may be experiencing. Staff are also available to discuss concerns you may have for another student and can identify ways to ensure that student receives assistance. During business hours, call 703-993-2380. After business hours and on weekends, call CrisisLink at 703-527-4077. For more information, visit the Counseling and Psychological Services website.
- Learning Services: Learning Specialists provide individualized academic coaching as well as workshops and other programs to help students develop skills to sustain attention, manage academic assignments, avoid procrastination, and stay on task. For more information about these services, call 703-993-2380 or visit Learning Services online.
- Student Support: Staff offer guidance to students in resolving educational, personal or other difficulties by helping them get connected to university and community resources. For more information, call 703-993-3686 or visit the Student Support and Advocacy Center.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Best wishes as you complete your work for the fall semester.
Barbara Meehan, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Counseling and Psychological Services