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Counseling appointments skyrocket after spring break due to stress

April 23, 2009

UW-River Falls counselors agree that counseling appointments usually skyrocket after spring break due to escalated stress. Even though there is no data showing the amount of counseling appointments in the fall compared to spring, all three of the counselors agree that it gets busier after spring break.

“Historically it has been a busy time,” UWRF counselor Jennifer Elsesser said. “A week after spring break is usually when it starts to hit home.”

Students interviewed also agreed that stress gets harder to cope with after spring break. Jane Reichstadt said it was because graduation was right around the corner and she needed to finish everything up. Students Trina VanDusartz and Samantha Berthiaume said the reason is because of projects building up.

“I haven’t used the counseling services,” Samantha Berthiaume said. “But I have friends who have and they said it has helped.”

Counselor Jennifer Herink said she thinks stress escalates during the end of spring semester due to excess projects building up. Herink said stress is especially problematic if students procrastinated at all during the semester. Counselor Mark Huttemier and Herink agreed they thought another factor of stress for residence hall residents is deciding who they want to live with the following semester, or confronting a current roommate of a decision not to live with them anymore. Elsesser said she thought that stress from school and outside sources are all connected.

Elsesser said this semester has not been as busy. Student Health Services recently hired Huttemier as another full-time counselor. Now students are usually able to get an appointment within two days.

“It’s been wonderful to be able to accommodate students better,” Elsesser said.

Elsesser said she thinks the reason why there have been less appointments this year is a combination of getting a new full-time counselor and UWRF students stress levels decreasing.  Student Health Services has focused more on stress prevention this year, Elsesser said.

Some of the activities that Student Health Services have used for prevention are I-Rock, an organization that focuses on student wellness, Monday night yoga in the University Center ballroom, the Wellness Challenge and a stress prevention column in the Student Voice by Mark Huttemier.

Elsesser said Student Health Services is continuing to work on stress prevention for next semester as well. Elsesser said some of their ideas include a podcast with relaxation techniques, meditation classes, and expanding Yoga to a couple times a week.

Huttemeir, Elsesser and Herink shared some of their suggested techniques to help students cope with stress.

Huttemier said taking pressure off the sciatic nerve helps. The sciatic nerve is located in the lower back, down to the hips. Huttemier said one can relax the sciatic nerve by relaxing the stomach muscles.

“If you have no pressure on the sciatic nerve and the stomach is relaxed you cannot be anxious,” Huttemier said.

Huttemier said another good tool for decreasing anxiety is distracting your mind for four minutes at a time.

“Anxiety and stress are close cousins. Stress can be there without anxiety but anxiety cannot be there without stress,” Huttemier said.

Elsesser said she likes to teach her patients meditation and relaxation techniques. She also suggested putting in time for yourself, getting enough sleep, exercising and doing activities you liked to do when you were a child, such as coloring or swinging on a swing set.

Herink suggested breaking things up into sections. He said to first think of the outline, then the first paragraph, then the next paragraph and so on. Herink said to reward yourself after each section is accomplished by taking a break and doing something you like to do.

Elsesser said all sources of stress are bunched together, and once you fix one area of stress it would be easier to work on the others.

“Stress is like a bunch of necklaces tangled up,” Elsesser said. “If you get one untangled it helps get the others loose.”