The Daily Illini

Break Away from Stress helps students maintain healthy lifestyle

By Saher Khan

Claire Young is stressing out. With finals just two weeks away, the junior in AHS is swamped with end-of-semester papers, assignments and tests.

“Stress feels like having on an extremely heavy backpack that you just can’t take off,” Young said.

Young manages her stress by going for long runs or crocheting, but said she is always open to new methods to keep herself stress-free. McKinley Health Center’s upcoming Break Away from Stress event is meant to inform Young, and students with similar concerns, on how to decrease and manage stress before finals week. The event will take place Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Student Dining and Residential Programs Building.

“It is a great way to take a break from studying for a little bit, get your mind off the books and focus on taking care of yourself,” said Jennifer Carson, stress management coordinator and wellness promotion specialist at McKinley.

Carson said that the event is designed like an open house. There will be a variety of stations that focus on different types of stress management.

McKinley’s Stress Management group collaborated with Body Work Associates to bring a few representatives to give shoulder and neck massages for students. There will be a table for students to make their own stress balls and a station for additional stress management information.

“Massages at this event? Heck yes, I would definitely like to go,” Young said.

The stress peer mentors will also be available to help students plan out their schedules for finals week. Young said she believes learning about time management is an important skill.

“Time management is not only important for college students, but is essential for us as future professionals as well,” she said. “All students can benefit from this, and it really does help us relieve stress because we have more time to get things done.”

This is the fourth annual Break Away from Stress event McKinley has hosted. The stress management group tries to host events like this every time students’ stress levels peak, which tends to happen during finals, midterms and holiday seasons, according to Carson. Their hope is that students will use these programs to learn and implement techniques that can help relieve their tension and make them more relaxed.

“Stress is normal. We all have it day-to-day. There are millions of times when things become overwhelming and are looming over us, where we feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to do something!’” Carson said. “So being able to put things in place prior to handling those situations is going to help you manage that much better.”

Stress management is individualized; what works for one person doesn’t work for another, Carson said. This is why the Break Away from Stress program is offering a variety of different techniques to fit the needs and interests of different people, so students can follow through on what works for them and stay consistent with those methods.

Peter Alemis, junior in LAS, has an established routine for how he manages stress.

“One of the biggest factors affecting stress is the inability to reach goals, small or large,” he said. “To handle this, I always plan out my weeks and make a list of what needs to be accomplished in order of importance.”

On top of methodically completing set goals, Alemis also maintains a healthy lifestyle by working out, eating healthy and sleeping for at least seven hours each night. The consistency in his regiment helps him stay focused. By accomplishing his goals and being healthy, he his able to alleviate stress.

“When people are consistent with stress management techniques, when faced with difficult times of increased intensity or feeling a little bit more anxious, they’re going to be able to manage those situations a lot more effectively and hopefully in a more relaxed manner,” Carson said.

McKinley will host another event called Stress Free Finals on Dec. 10 at the Weston Exploration Center at noon. This program is meant to help students become prepared and organized for finals. They also offer online relaxation exercises that students can download from McKinley’s website for free and use as a portable relaxation tool that focuses on things like deep breathing exercises. As the stress management coordinator at McKinley, Carson also sees students one-on-one for stress management appointments and talks to them about stress-related concerns that they might have.

Saher can be reached at [email protected].

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