Student Counseling Center Offers Tips for Coping with Mid-Term Stress

Cherry TreeIt is just more than halfway through a spring semester in the midst of a pandemic and ongoing struggles for social justice – most students are well-acquainted with stress by now. Stress has become so pervasive that many do not even notice how much tension their bodies are carrying on a daily basis. It can be helpful to take a moment to check in with the body through a body scan. If this is an unfamiliar activity, the SCC Progressive Muscle Relaxation video provides an easy tutorial. 


Breathing is one of the most effective and accessible ways of inducing relaxation in our bodies and brains. Yes, it sounds simple, but breathing fully and deeply is essential to calm the body so that the brain can do its job to think clearly. Breathing deeply helps engage the parasympathetic nervous system to return to a calm state. Practice right now. Inhale deeply from the diaphragm, completely filling the lungs. Let the neck and shoulders relax while slowly exhaling for as long as possible. Try to take several deep breaths like this several times each day.  

Track Tasks

Now that you’re breathing fully and hopefully feeling a bit of immediate relief, what can you do about the long to-do list you still need to complete? Rather than carrying that to-do list around in your head, it can be helpful to write down or type out each item. Prioritize the most important or time-sensitive items and do those right now. While it is unrealistic to accomplish everything today, notice that each day you do complete items. If you find that you’re not able to complete an item after several days, it may mean that the task needs to be broken into smaller chunks. For example, studying for an exam might involve finishing the readings, reviewing the class notes, creating study guides and meeting with a study group to quiz each other. Everyone needs help at times, so reach out to a professor, classmate, academic coach at the Advising Center, or the Center for Learning and Student Success (CLASS).

Attend to Basic Needs

Taking care of basic needs is essential to daily functioning. Unfortunately, in times of added stress these are often the first activities to become disrupted:  adequate sleep (seven to eight hours nightly), regular well-balanced meals, body movement, connection with friends and family and getting outside the box of your room (even in the rain). Taking regular study breaks (try 10 minutes out of every hour spent studying) helps provide time for a quick walk, a chat with a friend, or a healthy snack. Brains needs regular breaks to allow time for rest and consolidation of information. 

Impossible? Burning out will not help academic performance or health. Living in a state of constant stress often leads to difficulty focusing, trouble remembering things, problems sleeping, increased irritability, avoidance of important assignments and meetings and fatigue. 

While there are some ways to de-stress individually, as relational beings, many times de-stressing happens through community and connecting with others. To learn more about the importance of self-care as survival for marginalized communities, watch Creating a Survival Toolkit (episode 2) at our Rising from the Margins web series

SCC Resources

The SCC offers a variety of weekly virtual drop-in sessions:  MindfulnessBIPOC Let’s Talk, and co-created with CGE, Queer Let’s Talk

It is important to seek professional help if you feel significantly overwhelmed, feel that you can no longer cope, find that you are using drugs or alcohol more frequently as a result of stress, or experience suicidal thoughts. Students may contact the SCC by calling 503-352- 2191 or emailing to arrange an appointment.

For immediate and confidential mental health support wherever you are, call the SCC 24/7 Support and Crisis Line at 503-352-2999.

Follow the SCC on Instagram, view our SCC playlist of video tutorials at the Pacific University YouTube channel and visit our website for additional mental health resources including suggested apps.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021