Published: Feb. 25, 2020

As our students get further into the semester, they might feel pressure from a number of directions: schoolwork, finances, relationships, work schedules and more. While it’s important to acknowledge these responsibilities, remind your student to look out for their own energy and well-being, too. Here’s how to help them move past stress to finish the semester strong.

Check in

Your student is probably no stranger to stress but it’s always helpful when someone checks in. If they haven’t already, suggest your student write out a list of everything on their mind, including upcoming tests, projects, job stress, relationship or roommate issues etc. Writing this list on paper allows them take a deep breath for a moment, knowing they can take a break and return to the list at any time. It also allows them to make a clear plan of action to move forward.

Being mindful doesn’t always bring a sense of calm—rather, it’s about being present and aware of what’s going on. Looking at their list, your student can become more attuned to how they’re feeling right now (anxious, tired, excited etc.) and start to break their responsibilities into smaller, more manageable pieces.

If the stressor is something like a fight they had with a friend or roommate, it’s good to acknowledge what they can and can’t do to make it better. Remind your student to talk with their roommate or friend in person – messages can often get lost in translation in social media messages, texts or notes. They can also reach out to services on campus like Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution for support, including conflict coaching and mediation.

Prioritize needs

When we feel overwhelmed, even simple tasks can take a hit. Check in with your student using HALT: are they Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? If they answer yes to any of those, encourage them to take care of those needs first.

If your student is hungry? Putting off dinner to keep studying won’t help in the long run (and might make the last stretch of work unbearable). If they’re tired, getting sleep now will help them be more efficient when finishing their project in the morning. These basic needs are within their control, and taking care of them will not only help but will empower them to accomplish the other items on their list more effectively.

Do the next right thing

No matter how many times your student gets stressed throughout the semester it can’t hurt to remind them to focus on the “next right thing” especially if they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Sometimes the next right thing is addressing their basic needs (HALT); other times it means tackling one or more items on their list.

If the next right thing feels too hard to pin down, encourage them to check in again. What feels the most overwhelming? Can they break it down into pieces? Can they tackle a small piece of it right now? Most importantly, have they done a HALT check-in and taken care of their basic needs? Repeating this check-in process when they’re feeling overwhelmed can help them identify the next right thing.

Get support

Everyone goes through periods of stress. If your student is interested in learning more about stress management, relationships, sleep and other topics, Counseling and Psychiatric Services offers free workshops for students.

If you’re concerned about your student, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (303-492-2277) and Student Support and Case Management (303-492-7348) offer consultations on how best to support your student.