Drake University students can relate easily to a recent UCLA study finding first-year college students’ emotional health dropped to record low levels in 2010.
Added social and academic pressures of adjusting to college life can be a source of tension, but for some it’s just a way of life.
“If you aren’t stressing, then you’re forgetting something,” sophomore accounting and finance major Michael Riebel said.
Riebel is a Student Senate senator-at-large, Student Activities Board member, fraternity brother and part-time teller at Premier Credit Union.
His course load is 15 credit hours this semester. Required office hours, meetings and a part-time job add up to 20 hours of extra work on a light week.
Drake Health Center therapist Kirk Bragg encourages students to prioritize their lives to help with stress management.
Bragg said students worry about paying loans, finding jobs and the future. Drake students aren’t unique with their stress, but they might have more debt than other college students because of private-school tuition.
Signs of stress include headaches, excessive sweating, upset stomach and poor concentration.
“The point is not to run away from things, but learn to cope with them,” Bragg said.
Bragg said the basics in life, like a balanced diet and exercise, are most important. He encourages students to manage stress with a daily planner.
Riebel agreed that organization is key.
“It’s all about managing it,” he said.
Riebel ran for vice president of student activities and, although he did not win the election, he still spent time building and running a campaign for the few weeks before elections. Riebel captured 43 percent of votes while his opposition captured 54 percent.
His competitive race reflects his competitive attitude about Drake.
“It’s Drake University,” Riebel said. “You need to be that better student.”
Stress may be a continual reality, but Riebel balances it by catching an episode of “Jersey Shore” or hanging out with friends.
Other short-term ways students can handle stress include taking a break, pausing to breathe and prioritizing. Students can handle long-term stress by using a support system like friends, recognizing limits and making their own goals.
“It’s the slow drip of chronic stress — your body will tell you. It’s the stress that gets to people,” Bragg said.
Riebel isn’t the only one who has managed to avoid stress-related problems.
Sophomore physics and math double major Bennett Hansen is involved in several campus activities outside his 17 credit hours.
He participates in curling club events, maintains The Times-Delphic website and is a member of a fraternity, Student Senate Student Services Committee and Goodwin-Kirk Executive Council.
“I constantly have things in the back of my mind that I have to think about,” Hansen said.
Hansen manages his workload by writing things down in his planner. He said he realizes that his involvement in campus organizations at Drake has value.
“Because it’s small, the stuff you’re involved in will matter,” Hansen said.
Hansen copes with stress by taking advantage of his free time. He uses it to get things done and occasionally nap.
Some students manage their stress with a more hands-on approach.
Kevin Peterson is a senior biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major and licensed massage therapist at Drake.
Peterson treats four to eight students a week at Drake’s Wellness Center. He started working last year, and his practice now receives more attention than it did before because of open advertising.
“People are realizing that this will help with stress-related symptoms. I almost exclusively see students for stress,” Peterson said.
Peterson’s advice is simple: Know your limits and get to know yourself. He believes that self-awareness is the first step in figuring out how to eliminate that point of stress.
“Make sure to take care of yourself while taking care of everything else,” Peterson said.