Beat the stress

Emotional difficulties can arise during times of stress—like finals—there’s help

The summer vacation is drawing to a close at UNR. But the quietness of the campus can be likened to the calm that follows the storm. The end of the spring semester was a nightmare—as the end of the semester often is—for many students. And while some handled the final days of class as a transient tribulation, others went through silent emotional upheavals and private mental agonies.

“I always tend to feel the most pressure at the very end [of the semester] when I lose perspective of the fact that it’s going to be OK,” Jessica Mosebach, graduate student at UNR, says. “That’s when it tends to climax. I’m unable to handle [the stress] as it gets to be way too much for me.”

The three counseling centers at UNR that help students with their psychological issues—the Downing Counseling Clinic, 784-1596, the Disability Resource Center and the Counseling and Career Services—agree that most students face the biggest emotional ordeals during the end of the semesters and at the mid-terms. And the three most common problems seen among students are homesickness, stress adjustment and relationship issues. New students are more likely to be affected by these problems.

“[The fall semester] was worse than this semester,” Mosebach says, describing her experience as a new graduate student at UNR. “I was taking more classes and coping with loneliness and homesickness.”

The Annual Data Analysis Report 2002 of the Counseling & Testing Center says that anxiety, depression, relationship issues with romantic partners, stress management, and academic problems are the five concerns most often associated with self-reported severe distress.

“Anxiety can be about grades or finances; it can be about family issues or siblings that people worry about. It could also be a natural diagnosis like obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder or post-traumatic disorder,” says Jacqueline Pistorello, clinical psychologist at the Counseling and Career Services. “There can be many, many reasons.”

“It is general life experiences,” says Mary Zabel, director of the Disability Resource Center, explaining the myriad causes of anxiety among students. “I think a lot of the students come to us with a lot of issues. It could also be parental pressure or being away from home for the first time—numerous things.”

The inner turbulence often takes numerous outward forms of expression like procrastinating, problems with concentration, dilemmas about major, career or life after college. Sometimes it’s simply self-imposed.

“I have always tried to be an overachiever,” Mosebach says. “I put more pressure on myself than others put on me because I expect a lot from myself.”

“But I think what gets me through is looking at the light at the end of the tunnel,” she adds. “I have always been a self-motivated person. If I don’t believe in myself, ultimately there is nothing really to look for.”

But for those suffering from intense stress, it might actually be a better idea to seek outside help, as the counseling centers on campus do way more than simply talk to the clients to help them overcome their problems.

“We do outreach with freshman. We also do orientation with students,” Zabel says. “We do programs with residents of residential halls. We even do presentations to faculties to prepare them for handling [the psychological challenges faced by students] and referring students to counseling.”

Yet more can be done. In fact, students themselves can play an active role in assisting their peers who suffer silently.

“Creating a safe environment for the students so that they know that they have some kind of acceptance [is important],” Zabel says, describing the ways students can help one another. “[Another way could be] by having tolerance towards differences.”