Tips to manage a stressful semester

By Rose Gottlieb

 Maria Uminski/Flickr
Maria Uminski/Flickr

As the spring semester begins, students at the University of Massachusetts are getting back into the swing of things after winter break. For many students, this means balancing classes, homework, extracurricular activities, jobs and other obligations. Getting back into this busy routine after almost a month of break can often be very stressful. Some students, however, have found different strategies to manage their stress

Senior Meri Laitinen-Carnevale knits or plays online chess. Sophomore Dylan McFadden plays his guitar, listens to music or watches TV. Alexa Fearing, a sophomore, sleeps when she is stressed out. Sophomore Sara Wagner does yoga to relax.

Peter Vaiknoras, a junior, said, “I tend to get away from whatever it is that’s stressing me out.” Vaiknoras will spend an hour watching comedian Louis C.K., browsing Netflix or going out to dinner with friends.

Sophomore Sarah Maunder said, “[I] will try to make a schedule for my week so I’m not doing everything the day before it’s due.” Maunder also makes herbal teas and goes to bed early to relax.

Franz Buker, a doctoral intern at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, offered some tips to students dealing with stress. One of Buker’s tips was to practice diaphragmatic breathing, which is a form of deep breathing that comes from the belly rather than the chest.

Buker said that deep breathing is a “great tool to de-stress.”  To do it properly, you should “pay attention to your breath, slow it down, [and] breathe through your diaphragm instead of higher up in your chest,” Buker said. “Your belly will expand when you breathe in [and] deflate like a balloon when you exhale” Buker added. According to Buker, iPhone or Android owners can download an app called Breathe2Relax, which teaches users how to deep breathe properly.

Besides deep breathing, Buker offered many other helpful tips for students trying to manage stress. Buker suggested trying the following:

  • Stay organized: Write to-do lists, keep a planner, make yourself schedules or use any other method to record your responsibilities. This will help you find the time to meet all of your obligations and will help make sure that you don’t forget anything important.
  • Prioritize: We don’t always have the time to accomplish everything we set out to do. If you find yourself in this situation, first complete what is most important or urgent.
  • Balance responsibilities: Make sure not to let any one activity consume the majority of your time. Although it may be important to you to do well in school, put in extra hours at work or attend every social activity, make sure that you leave room for other areas of your life as well.
  • Make sure you have social support: Your social support system is any person or group of people you enjoy spending time with. Allow yourself to spend time with them. For new students, try attending clubs or getting to know the people around you. By making connections, you will begin building a social support system here at UMass.
  • Exercise: Exercising releases endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that play a role in reducing stress. If you are feeling overwhelmed, taking some time to work out may help you relax.
  • Take care of yourself: No matter how busy your schedule may be, make sure you leave some time for you. Take this time to rest, relax and do things you enjoy.
  • Seek help when it is needed: If the stress in your life becomes unmanageable, there are many resources available on campus that can help you out. At the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health or the Psychological Resources Center, you can meet with someone who will talk to you about what is stressing you out and help you learn to manage it.

The Center for Counseling and Psychological Health is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., and can be reached at (413) 545-2337.

Rose Gottilieb can be reached at [email protected]