A student’s guide to stress

BCIT offers students many services to alleviate stress, and counsellors have advice for how to cope

We’ve all felt it: the familiar fight, flight, or freeze response bubbling up from our stomachs when we realise that our plates are overflowing. Ladies and gentlemen, I present stress.

While it’s obviously not a pleasant experience, not all stress is bad. It can be an incredible motivator. It can drive us to success (granted, the road may be bumpy) and challenge us, making what might have seemed unimportant worthwhile in the end. Few feelings can rival a sense of accomplishment.

But managing stress and alleviating the anxiety you may feel doesn’t have to be a solo mission. Sometimes even the best of us need a little help.

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—(courtesy of Diego Cervo)

According to Megan Bruneau, a counsellor at BCIT’s counselling and student development service, the most common student complaints and concerns include anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, and feeling overwhelmed.

With exam time just around the corner, it seems fair to say that many of us at BCIT will be feeling some kind of stress over the next few weeks, and while we’d all like to think we’ve learned lessons from our past bouts with the cruel mistress that is procrastination, sometimes, no matter what you do, it’s not enough.

As exhaustion starts, and you have trouble remembering a time when dark circles weren’t a feature of your face, try to make a point of practicing what Bruneau calls “good sleep hygiene”.

[pullquote]Managing stress and optimising the anxiety you may feel doesn’t have to be a solo mission.[/pullquote]

“That means no caffeine past 2 pm, going to sleep and waking up at a consistent time, and leaving your phone out of the bedroom,” she explained. “It’s also normal for diet and exercise to go down the crapper when you’re most in need of it… [But] don’t make following a perfect exercise routine to ‘reduce stress’ yet another stressor.”

For some reason, there’s a definite stigma attached to counselling. While many may consider seeking help as a form of weakness, it actually shows more courage and self-awareness than anything else.

Bruneau says, “People who seek out counselling aren’t ‘crazy’ or ‘unstable’. Rather, they’re generally proactive, resourceful, and resilient.”

Whether you need a massage, or genuinely feel like there is something in your life that you want to fix, relaxation techniques and counselling are valid — and undervalued — services.

Students at BCIT might not even be aware that they have access to their own counselling and student development services. The services aim to increase students’ ability to cope and to prevent your body from getting to the point of exhaustion.

Even if you don’t seek out the help of these services, give yourself permission to skip the gym, or let your apartment get messy. If you’re a “yes man”, set boundaries to prevent yourself from being spread too thin. And practice self-compassion: what would you say to a friend struggling with stress? Life is not about perfection and, especially during stressful times, it’s okay to cut yourself a little slack.

Plan for the unexpected, know your warning signs and when to dial back. If you start feeling overwhelmed, ask for help — you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in great company.

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