April is known as Stress Awareness Month. Which is especially fitting timing at William Woods, where stress can be a constant companion for students throughout the month, with final exams, plans for the summer, graduation and life after graduation the major themes. Students are juggling job applications (for internships or their first fulltime job,) studying for finals, completing normal class work, and preparing to leave for the summer or for good.
On a college campus, stress is actually an equal-opportunity presence. And while most counselors and faculty believe freshman year is the most stressful time in college, it’s usually seniors who are doing the most “freaking out” by this time of year.
“For seniors, the unknown is a big stressor,” said Psychology Professor Julian Hertzog. “For the last four years, you have had a plan of how to handle college, and now suddenly you do not know what is ahead of you.”
“People starting asking what you are going to do, instead of what you want to do,” said Anna Johnson ’19. “And you are still figuring out what you are going to be doing. It helps that other seniors are going through the same experience, so you have that in common and can relate to each other.”
What is the easiest way to manage this stress? Start with planning ahead, according to Hertzog, and Director of Career Services Amy Dittmer. Plan out your day, including time for homework, to fill out applications, and even time for rest and self-care. Sleep and self-care are often neglected when stress levels are high, but are critical to manage stress.
“Seniors are facing the end of their time in college and the start of their future, so of course they’re probably going to have a little more stress,” said Dittmer. “They can be hard on themselves thinking they need to know right now what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. They need to think of their next step and how to get there.”
“We do a lot of work to help students prepare for their workload in a career, what expectations they will be held to, and to have confidence entering the workforce,” said Joni Antonia, counselor at Counseling and Health Services.
“You need to have confidence in your education,” said Kristine Treijs ’19. “If you’re confident about your skill set and your ability to apply your knowledge, it will make the transition to the workforce easier.”
“What I appreciate about the Equestrian faculty is that they really emphasize on how to showcase your experience and skill set as unique,” said Johnson. “We all have different goals in the Equestrian world and need to know how to articulate those and market ourselves.”
For William Woods student-athletes, there is an added level of stress. There are normal practices and weight lifting requirements. Beyond that there is balancing schoolwork and athletics and travelling for games, which can be a challenge this time of year.
“During spring sports, our athletes are dealing with games being rescheduled due to weather, while still completing their school work and studying for finals,” said athletic trainer Mike McInnhenny. “Our athletes often deal with organized chaos and can be a little scatterbrained managing all of their obligations.”
A key to reducing and managing stress is being active outside of your obligations. McInhenny said that many students lift in their free time, go for runs, and practice a healthy diet to manage their stress.
“Practice self-care daily,” advises Social Work Professor Elizabeth Wilson. “Take time to meditate, take a walk, or any hobby that lets you relax.”
“Try to take a break between graduation and starting your career to let yourself reset and experience the world,” said Hertzog. “And make plans to keep in touch of your friends, leaving college is already a big change, and harder if you lose track of the people who supported you for the last four years.”
Staff and faculty also try to monitor students’ stress levels and help them know when they may need to take steps to reduce it. Many departments across campus have been having internal conversations on how to recognize these signs in students and encourage them to seek help, or lend an ear. Sometimes, it’s just a case of students needing to learn to take time to themselves.
“Mindfulness and positive imagery can really help students,” added Antonia “I help students realize how they can talk to themselves and practice more self-love as a way to reframe their negative thoughts.”
“Students need to prioritize their time to reduce stress,” said Wilson. “Make lists, use the skills that have made you successful in your coursework and break tasks down to make them more manageable.”
“To manage stress transitioning to the workforce, students need to remember what made them successful in college,” said Dittmer. “If a planner really helped them in college, they can get a planner to use at their job. If they make lists, they should continue to use to-do lists in their career. If you keep practicing what’s made you successful in the past, you will continue to be successful.”