Tired female student studying
Black female student studying in a library, working late.

How can we manage our stress? 5 questions with University Health and Counseling Services

The high-achieving and hard-working faculty, staff and students who compose the Case Western Reserve University community are no strangers to stress. Late nights and deadlines can pile on, negatively affecting individuals’ health. In recognition of April being National Stress Awareness Month, The Daily sat down with Jessica Perry, a clinical counselor at University Health and Counseling Services,  to help the campus community better understand stress—and how to manage it.

Read on to learn Perry’s answers to our five questions.

1. What are a few common ways in which you have seen stress manifest in students? And in the general population?

Stress locks up our executive functioning. This means that so much of what is required of us to work toward our goals—focus, reasoning and decision making—gets compromised when we are experiencing a lot of stress. This can lead to frustration, misplaced self-blame and burnout. 

2. What are some of the dangers of stress if left unchecked?

Chronic stress can contribute to significant physical and mental health difficulties, such as heart disease and depression. It can also lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement from our goals and values. Taking the time to slow down and engage in some stress management strategies can help mitigate these consequences and rebound.

3. How have you seen stress manifest in your own life? 

One warning sign of stress overload for me is feeling less present. This is where my flexible mindfulness routine really helps me. I have a wide range of mindfulness activities that I like to choose from depending on what I need. Sometimes I need to carve out time for a more formal mindfulness activity—such as a 30-minute body scan or yoga class. Other times, I just need to slow down a little and engage my senses—like when I am drinking my morning coffee. 

4. What daily practices would you recommend to students (and others) to help manage their stress?

I recommend creating a calming nighttime routine to help process any residual stress from the day and to promote deeper sleep. Some ideas on how to intentionally wind down include deep breathing exercises, stretching or journaling. 

For those interested in learning more about mindfulness concepts and exercises, I recommend this ebook that can be accessed for free through the university’s library:

The Mindful Twenty Something

5. How do you manage your stress—personally and professionally?

I look for opportunities to decompress in between my responsibilities so that I am managing any stress responses throughout the day instead of letting it build up over time. During the workday, this looks like taking a walk around the quad and taking time to connect with my coworkers. On evenings and weekends, I seek out meaningful moments with my loved ones. One of my favorite stress-relieving activities is a long walk by the lake with my family—pup included!

University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) offers many different ways to address stress management, including wellness programming and individual counseling sessions. Students can join the UHCS Campus Groups page, which will also add them to the Student Wellness newsletter. If a student is interested in counseling, the best way to get started is scheduling a same-day appointment through My Health Connect  or to call us at 216.368.5872. The Timely Care app  which is free for all CWRU students, also has health, counseling and wellness resources. 

For faculty and staff, the Faculty and Staff Wellness website has a wide variety of programs and resources—including a course on sleep hygiene.