Stress Out Day to prepare students for finals week

Bridgette Canal barely had time to stress over upcoming finals for her five classes.

Instead, Canal, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said she has been stressed over creating a stress management and coping skills event that will take place today at Crescent Hill, behind the Marshall Student Center.

The daylong “Stress Out Day” event, which is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature stress-busting tips from Responsible Education and Action for Campus Health (REACH) peer educators, who will assist students in making stress relief “squeeze balls.”

The day will also include relaxing music, free healthy food from Evos and sporting equipment rented from the Campus Recreation Center for games such as tug of war.

Canal is president of the event’s sponsoring organization, USF Active Minds, a student group geared toward raising awareness of mental health issues on campus. She said the goal of the event is to help students prepare for finals week.

“We’re not going to have it during finals week because people would be too busy then,” she said. “Essentially, we want people to learn about better coping skills and have a day of fun before finals. We want to provide information about the stress that everyday college students experience. (We want to show) there are healthier coping mechanisms out there than what most people do, like eat unhealthy or smoke cigarettes.”

Diane Zanto, senior director for Student Health Services, said she believes stress affects the college demographic, more than the average population.

“This is because of the number of changes that college students are experiencing,” Zanto said. “For the first time they need to use time-management skills, learn how to do their own laundry, make choices about food and manage their own transportation … All of this change, even if positive, is still very stressful.”

The event is being hosted by chapters of Active Minds on campuses across the country today.

Canal said mental health is an issue that often gets skirted by young adults.

“We want to reduce the stigma associated with getting help,” she said. “There’s a huge stigma with getting help. Everybody should be able to (see a psychologist). The Counseling Center offers 10 free sessions and nobody knows that. I didn’t even know that until I was in Active Minds.”

Canal said she knows students who frequently pull all-nighters and take psycho-stimulating prescription drugs, such as Adderall, to cope with stress levels they can’t handle.

“College students’ (coping) mechanisms are super poor,” she said. “You always see (them) smoking cigarettes outside the Library. Late-night Taco Bell runs or even the late-night dining hall runs are super unhealthy. Not dealing with your own personal stress can lead to anxiety disorders and has such negative effects on your body.”

Zanto said students should take control of the ways they respond to stress, as opposed to stress itself, which is often beyond one’s control.

“Coping mechanisms really revolve around making healthy lifestyle choices,” she said. “Getting enough sleep and exercising routinely are some of the healthiest coping mechanisms. Talking to friends and family, getting engaged in the campus community are also great stress outlets. If stress levels get too high and students feel overwhelmed, they are less likely to do well in their academics and may begin to feel overwhelmed or depressed or get physically ill. Time management is also critical to stress management. Procrastination can be the source of lots of stress.”

Canal said she, too, hopes to learn about better coping skills at the event.

“Even though things are really stressful and I have a lot on my plate, I can still cope with it in healthier ways,” she said. “I am very stressed a lot and I’m hoping to learn personally about better coping mechanisms.”