Stress and anxiety. These words have become synonymous with the college experience. And for good reasons: grades, money and health are just snippets from the messy montage of responsibilities students’ minds have on repeat. Just scroll through any student’s Twitter feed and odds are the words “all-nighter,” “crying” and “miss my dog” will come up. Fortunately, the Office of Student Life knows that students need better ways of dealing with these ongoing stressors than a tweet.
“For college students, this is an important part of their life transition into adulthood and into the professional arena,” says Shivani Edwards, Assistant Director of Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS) in the Office of Student Life. “[College] is a stressful time because the academic rigor can be overwhelming, but mental health is just as important and finding that balance is important for a great experience.”
In their mission to promote well-being and academic success, CCS provides dozens of comprehensive services including individual and group counseling, psychiatry, workshops and outreach programs. Every student enrolled on any Ohio State campus is given up to ten free individual counseling sessions per academic year along with access to an unlimited number of group counseling sessions for free.
“We have different groups for undergrad and grad students, culturally-specific groups, gender-specific [groups] and groups for our LGBTQ students,” Edward says. They are great ways to get support from each other and develop ideas on how to manage things here. Having someone neutral to talk [to] and getting different perspectives can be extremely helpful in looking at and dealing with situations because it opens [students] up to new ideas and approaches maybe they haven’t thought of.”
Edwards notes the importance of building a supportive community and for understanding different aspects of mental health. This is why CCS has an outreach program and daily drop-in workshops for students to discuss topics like anxiety and depression as well as how to manage them.
“We hope outreach promotes the idea that counseling and wellness is an ongoing process, not just for crisis situations,” Edwards says. “We want to help students prevent things from getting worse and take a more wellness type of approach to handle stress.”
This mindset that counseling is an ongoing, daily process is one that Edwards and the entirety of CCS emphasizes, and one that would help many students to manage stress on their own. Edwards believes one of the best things to do to prevent stress from becoming a crisis is to just take breaks.
“When we get stressed, we forget to do the daily things that help us, like spending time with friends and going to the gym,” Edwards explains. “It’s important to build in those breaks and times. Some of those little things add structure to your schedule and can really help in keeping your stress level down or manageable.”
But oftentimes students forgo this advice in order to keep up with the perfectionist mindset engraved into their brains at an early age. Edwards suggests that it is just as important that prioritizing mental health is also presented in middle and high school.
“Schools should focus on social and emotional learning as well as test scores,” Edwards says. “I appreciate Student Life’s efforts in looking at a student holistically instead of as just an academic machine. We want to focus on academic rigor but also want to focus on helping students. Colleges can do a lot to help reduce the stigma of using mental-health services and being proactive in stress management.”
Just as it is important that schools promote the idea that counseling is not just a last resort to deal with crises, Edwards wants students to know that counseling is a service that can become part of their daily lives.
“Know when you might want a few more tips,” Edwards says. “Take breaks, take time for yourselves. Learn when stress is too much for you.”