‘Self Care for the Holidays’ brings awareness of strategies to maintain mental health

Dec. 7, 2015

Hannah Harvey
[email protected]

It may be easy for students to become overwhelmed by the flurry of events that signal the end of the semester. From finals to dangerous weather to going home for the holidays, stress can be normal at the end of the year.

The Counseling Center hosted “Self Care for the Holidays” on Dec. 1, which covered ways to take care of yourself during finals and the holiday season.

The presentation was given by Lyndsey Klemme, master’s student in the clinical mental health program.

Klemme said stress can be induced during the end of semester as a result of change.

Students who go home for the holidays may feel a sense of loss when returning to where they grew up because of the change they have gone through and are witnessing in their old communities.

According to Benek Altayli, director of the Counseling Center, students create a community for themselves that they tend to highly prioritize. Once school is not in session, it can be difficult for students to not have their usual contact with the members of this community.

“It feels like a temporary loss (for students),” Altayli said. “Students change from semester to semester and going back into the family system is an adjustment, which is true for people who are both in town and out of town.”

“Loneliness has a negative impact both physically and emotionally,” Klemme said.

Common stressors among students include changes within their community back home, being away from the community they have built on campus, reintegrating into their family system and being accepted as the person they have changed into.

Altayli said students that are stressed out from these factors are not necessarily depressed or anxious.

“The stress and adaptation processes are normal; we all go through that,” she said.

Cathryn Calvert, staff psychologist for the Counseling Center, said there are many ways to deal with stress and feelings of loss over the holidays, such as communicating with friends and being present in the moment.

“What we know is that when we stay present, when we’re mindful of what’s going on around us, then we have a better chance of being able to react in the way we want to,” she said.

Students can stay focused on their surroundings by not stressing over last semester, or what might happen in the spring.

Klemme said six factors are essential to self-care: an adequate amount of sleep, staying hydrated, engaging in physical activity, eating healthy and engaging in social interactions with peers.

In order to help students excel in finals, Klemme offered strategies to prepare for exams. She said students should prepare by practicing active learning, collaborating in study groups of four to five students, asking for help and avoid cramming material.

Some students are already implementing these strategies in order to prepare for their upcoming exams.

Yasmine Aken, freshman biology major, said she studies information in pieces instead of cramming an entire semester’s worth of knowledge.

Maintaining mental health is important for a variety of reasons, but mainly because this maintenance contributes to overall wellbeing. Calvert said our cognitive processes and emotions can impact physical functioning.

“If you’re not feeling well, whether that’s physically or mentally, that’s going to impact your ability to be present and enjoy the holidays,” Calvert said.

Gabrielle Mendoza, freshman environmental sciences major, said that self-care encompasses not only physical wellbeing, but also mental and emotional health.

Counseling Center:

Main Hall 324

Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

719-255-3265, or visit Main Hall 324