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by Dayna Kalakau, staff writer

 
Stress is a physical and psychological reaction to problems and events in one’s environment, said Dr. Gregory Hall, chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Bentley College, in an article he wrote for CampusBlues.com.

A change in environment and periods of significant transition are common stress triggers for anyone, but especially for newly matriculating college students. Managing homework, school activities, and sometimes even a full-time job, all at once, can increase those stress levels.

“ When I first started college,” said Danielle Jones, a junior visual communications major from Los Angeles, “I was very depressed for about two weeks,…but I learned to love the island, and I love where I am.”

According to Hall, “All of us experience stress on a regular basis. Most of this stress is actually positive, serving to motivate us.” However, excessive stress is not healthy.

Hall explains that higher levels of stress can develop over time. Students are often unaware that unhealthy stress is building up until it is too late, and they are suffering either physically or emotionally. Without an outlet for its release, stress can cause physical or psychological breakdown. According to the National Mental Health Association, college students who report being stressed are more likely to experience feelings of depression and anxiety.

Subtle warning signs of unhealthy stress include: changes in sleeping and eating patterns; increased frustration and a quickness to anger; chronic colds, muscle aches, and headaches; and difficulties completing tasks.

“ When I first started college, I tried so hard to do and manage everything,” said junior Jackie Rodriguez, a communication major and California native. Rodriguez carries a full schedule of six courses each semester. “I just couldn’t do it, and my body paid for it. I’ve been so stressed that I become really depressed and unhappy,” she admitted.

NMHA research indicates that feelings like those Rodriguez describes often lead to eating disorders, increased levels of anger, the use of alcohol and drugs, and in some cases, suicide. In 1998 suicide was the second leading killer among college students and third on the list for all those ages 15-24.
Fortunately, however, if students take a proactive approach to stress management, one that takes care of both mind and body, stress is less likely to do harm. Research indicates that unhealthy stress levels cause physical illnesses and chemical changes in the body, but that’s only half the equation. The same research, Hall said, indicates that maintaining a healthy balance between the physical and the psychological self—through healthy diet and exercise habits, setting healthy goals, having alone time, and thinking positively—can help students maintain healthy levels of stress and allow them to get the most out of the college experience.

“ When I feel stressed, I go to the gym, or I swim in the ocean,” said Jones. “It helps me take my mind off things.”

HPU offers a number of programs and resources to help students deal with stress. Many of the school’s academic advisors have counseling certificates. Not only are they available if students just want to vent their frustrations, but they can help students who become homesick or who lack essential time management skills.

“ Sometimes the students get off track,” said advisor Deneen Kawamoto. “Sometimes just talking to us helps.”

Students can come in on an as-needed basis, or they may schedule weekly meeting times with advisors. If advisors feel they cannot help a student, they refer the student to a medical professional.
Students might also seek counsel from Rev. Dale Burke, HPU communication instructor and chaplain, whose office is room 1506 in the UB Building, at 1164 Bishop, 544-5394.

The Secrets of Success seminar program is another counseling service offered by the Academic Advising Center. The themed seminars cover topics ranging from note-taking skills and time management tips to overcoming homesickness and advice for students with part-time jobs. The seminars are free and open to all HPU students.

Of particular concern to HPU administrators are the school’s first-year students.

“ They need a lot of support,” said Kawamoto of first-year students. The new First Year Programs office offers a variety of activities to freshmen, including seminars, workshops, and field trips to various parts of the island, all which are designed to help them to better cope with the transition from high school to college.

Kawamoto added that HPU is in the process of hiring a psychologist who will become the first director of Personal Counseling and will be dedicated solely to helping students with their personal problems.
 
 

 

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