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by Gail Bruce-Sanford, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist
MSU Denver Counseling Center, a Department of Student Engagement and Wellness
Stress is inevitable; it is very difficult to avoid it completely. We all cope with it in different ways. Of course, some ways are healthier than others. As college students, you may have a better sense of when to anticipate some stressful times such as mid-terms, days with presentations or recitals, final exams, going home for the holidays and readjusting to old routines, graduation and some required social events to name a few. Notice that some of these sound like pure fun, but even exciting and fun events could be a source of positive stress; it’s still stress. Whenever our existing resources are inadequate for handling multiple expectations and demands, we get stressed. Hence there are implications for maintaining a healthy balance to avoid the stress trigger.
Let’s look at this issue through the lens of a young adult student, Veney, who is curious about deepening understanding of this stress phenomenon.
The holidays are approaching and I am planning on visiting with my parents and two younger identical twin siblings who are tenth graders. I love them all dearly, but after the first day of being with them, they all drive me crazy, and I find myself wanting to avoid them. What can I do to avoid being so stressed over this issue?
Let me start of by saying that I recognize some good strengths in your family dynamics. You all seem to get along well, and the first day of reuniting appears to be fun and cherished.
There is something that happens from the second day that perhaps you all need to discuss openly. It could be related to unrealistic expectations of each other such as feeling imposed upon, not feeling fully respected for expressing different opinions and more … Note that it’s these subtleties and nuances that often contaminate harmonious relationships, especially if not shared openly. After all, you are away at college and would have incorporated some different changes that are different from when you were growing up and no-one is really truly prepared to embrace that in many ways you all start seeing each other through different lenses. Parents may find you too independent and you may perceive them as being stuck in their ways. It is hard to talk about because no-one wants to hurt the other’s feelings intentionally; but, feelings are still being hurt because something is not being said and everyone feels stressed.
So is it ok to tell my parents that I have different views on relationships and how they are raising my younger siblings?
Yes, of course. I am suggesting that you invite dialogue in a very respectful manner; no need to lose your cool. You may something such as: “Mom and Dad, I have been noticing some tension among us; can we talk some more about it? Perhaps you are noticing my withdrawing a bit more than usual; I am not sure …” Such an approach opens up the opportunity for clarification and a deepening of understanding as both parties decide to engage in a process of sharing, listening and validation of each other as you identify the issues that get in the way.
My parents are really opinionated and I doubt that they would listen to me.
I appreciate your saying that because this issue is so real for so many. An important piece is to first express your appreciation to them for something that you are genuinely thankful for before launching into a criticism. Then your views are more easily received.
That’s helpful for dealing with stress in the family; what do I do about just feeling simply overwhelmed?
Veney, students often take on too much. Here are ten suggestions that you may find useful:
Veney, I must reiterate the importance of self-care. As we encounter the many demands that are placed on us, we want to maintain control and balance. An experienced writer once said: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Do not hesitate to utilize our Counseling Center mental health professionals for some professional support when the need arises.
We are located in Tivoli 651 and can be reached by phone at 303-615-9988. Our website can be accessed at any time for additional resources at msudenver.edu/counsel.
By Cindy Dormer, Ph.D., registered dietitian
Health Center at Auraria
If you’ve been working on your wellness and weight for a while, you may already know these essential motivation strategies:
Here are two new and interesting motivation ideas to try:
Here and now reasons
Many of us make bargains with ourselves. We tell ourselves that if we exercise today then, eventually, if we keep it up, we will reach our weight and fitness goals. We might even say to ourselves things like, when I lose weight, then I will be worthy of love and respect. New research (see references below) suggests that it may be more motivating to focus on here and now reasons.
For example, instead of thinking of the long-term benefits of going for a walk today, on your lunch break, think of more immediate benefits. Maybe it will be a chance to clear your head and be more efficient and creative when you get back. Maybe a walk is the only way you can get away from constant emails, phone calls and office chatter.
Especially if you’ve told yourself you’ll take better care of yourself and do more self-care things after you’ve lost weight or gotten through a busy time. Think again. You’ll perform better, on any goal, if you take care of yourself. Use the performance reason to get yourself going now on essential self-care behaviors like cooking for yourself, getting to the dance class or scheduling that overdue doctor’s appointment.
When things go wrong, maintain a Growth Mindset
Almost everyone who has ever tried to do anything challenging has experienced failure and fallen into what researcher Carol Dweck calls a Fixed Mindset. Fixed Mindset thinking often sets in when, after trying a wellness or weight management strategy, you don’t see the results you were hoping for. You may say things to yourself things that sound like “It’s always been like this; It will always be like this; this is just who I am.” Dweck and other researcher recommend we fight back against the Fixed Mindset thinking and remind ourselves that:
The really cool thing is that researchers find that people who remind themselves that failure can be viewed as an “interesting” part of progress begin to feel less bad about challenges and set backs. They are more apt to take on and succeed at difficult goals like losing weight, building their physical fitness or escaping unproductive habits and routines.
In summary, there are almost as many motivation strategies as there are eating strategies. Like eating well, finding the motivation strategies that work for you takes knowledge, coaching and some personal experimentation.
If you’re interested in getting some help following through with your weight loss and wellness goals, be sure to call 303-352-7008 to set an appointment to see me, Cindy Dormer, Ph.D., the registered dietitian at the Health Center at Auraria.
What’s this you say, a blog? Huh? Why? I often find myself wanting to share information with students – or even offer a bit of advice – to students that doesn’t easily “fit” on a departmental website or similar formalized format.
I’d like to think that after 15 years working to help college students succeed I have some nuggets words of wisdom that might be helpful to put out there into the ether. I’m often also amazed by the wealth of information that my colleagues have – whether it is determining the best way to navigate a particularly tricky challenge or learning to lead in a non-traditional format, there’s a wealth of help and support in the minds of the Student Engagement and Wellness team.
We’d like to sit down with each student and help individuals maximize their college experience, but at an institution as large, diverse, and busy as MSU Denver, that’s not always feasible. And so, a blog was born. The idea is simple: Share what’s on our mind to help students be successful.
Within SEW we focus on the personal experience of MSU Denver students. While our colleagues are working through the nuances of helping students finance a college education, register for the right set of classes, or providing excellent academic supports and experiences, our role is in the co-curricular (that’s academic speak for complimenting the academic experience). Learning happens outside the walls of the classroom, labs, or the Blackboard course structure. Likewise, sometimes life happens and impacts one’s best-laid plans for the semester. The SEW team is here for you.
Reflecting on my own college experience, I am reminded of the value of my experiences as a student leader that helped propel me into my first professional position, and also on the significance of the seemingly casual conversations that I had with my friends over a frozen yogurt (I didn’t drink coffee back then?!) far outside of the scope of our classroom lectures. I also think about the importance of getting help from someone competent and compassionate when life flared up and posed what seemed like an insurmountable barrier at the time.
Within SEW we “get” that each MSU Denver student has a unique set of life circumstances impacting their MSU Denver experience and that each of you also has a different set of expectations for your MSU Denver experience. The blog provides a platform for us to share some perspective and offer a bit of advice to our fellow Roadrunners.
Have a topic in mind and want to hear what we might have to say? You can always contact us to let us know what’s on your mind or suggest a topic for us to tackle.