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Volume 69, Issue 47, Wednesday, October 29, 2003


CAPS offers tips that can help fight stress

by Angela Guiberteau
News Reporter

When students need help dealing with unhealthy levels of stress or finding a balance between their studies, career, family and relationships they can turn to both the Counseling and Psychological Services offices and the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center to develop strategies to cut stress. 

Because many UH students are non-traditional, they can have multiple stresses that are not normally considered when describing the typical college student. 

"The most popular stressers we hear about deal with grades, finances and relationships," said Karen Nelson, the assistant director of CAPS. 

She added that it was not unusual for a traditional college student to make grades their ultimate priority whereas the typical UH student is a full time student with a full time job. Between battles with the financial aid office and trying to maintain a certain GPA in order to graduate, UH students often have a tougher time than most, she said.

"The traditional college student is not pulled in different directions," Nelson said. "It's a lot harder when you are trying to keep up with kids and families and other responsibilities."

This has contributed to UH's low graduation rates, with most students taking between 7 and 8 years to earn their degree, according to the office of enrollment management. Many UH students have already begun working in their field before they graduate. 

"The degree gets so difficult to do that it is not unusual for one of our students to give up and say, 'I'm already here (in their field), why bother?'" Nelson said.

The CAPS offices are located in room 226 in the Student Services Center, where familiar sights include many stressed out students, either discussing family problems on the phone or making appointments. 

When Nelson encounters a student with popular UH stresses, the student is given a few counseling sessions and a list of stress relief resources that are available on the UH campus. Nelson sends many students to visit the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.

"I recommend students develop a stress management program that includes changes in their behavior and their thinking as well as in their approach to relaxation," said Gail Gillan, the center's director. 

Students can set up appointments with Gillan to learn stress management strategies. Gillan says the center also does a lot of work with UH students over the Internet because not all of the students live on campus.

"One of the best methods to relieve tension and stress is to develop a regular relaxation program, but you need to practice it every day for at least five minutes a day. You can use soft music, nature sounds or a relaxation tape," Gillan said. "The idea is to practice letting your mind and body relax. Of course, there are other stress management methods, including exercise, good nutrition, changing the irrational thoughts we often have and finding a good support system." 

Every Monday is Blue Monday at the UH Wellness Center. Blue Monday is a relaxation lab where students can receive stress management information and listen to a relaxation tape. 

The tapes include a soothing voice and nature sounds that help students relax. The stress management information includes exercises students can practice for a few minutes each day.

A student can also visit <I><P> to listen to the relaxation tips. Simply click on Online Workshops and go to Relaxation Lab.

"There is a Yoga group meeting every Tuesday and Thursday in Garrison Gym, room 206...Yoga is certainly one way to help with stress," Gillan said. "It can help with your overall fitness and well being and the mediation that comes with it is quite helpful."

Gillan tries to cushion the impact of stress for UH students by supplying them with recommendations such as relaxation tapes, Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises to consistently practice. This helps stop stress before it starts, she said.

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