Sheena Parasuco, like most other students, is wondering how she will possibly finish all her work before Dec. 6, when her classes end. Parasuco is in her third year at Concordia University, where she is studying philosophy and marketing. In addition, she works part time at a health clinic doing billing, making appointments, as well as frontline work.
With so much school work to worry about, she had to request reduced hours at work. “They don’t want to keep me on because I can’t work enough,” Parasuco said. “Now I have to look for a new job, but it’s hard because I don’t have many hours available.”
Between recovering from midterms, prepping for finals and dealing with all the assignments and group projects in between, the last few weeks before winter break can leave students feeling completely overwhelmed. On top of their regular course load, many students also have part-time jobs, living expenses and relationship issues to deal with.
Parasuco is fortunate to have her parents pay for her tuition, as long as she keeps her marks up, but she still has to come up with $400 a month for rent and utilities for her St. Henri apartment. “I mean, I can pay my rent this month but I have no idea what I’m going to do for the next few months.”
What many are unaware of is that Concordia offers free services to help students cope with these kind of stressors. The Counselling and Development department provides advising and psychological help for those who need extra guidance.
Dale Robinson is the interim coordinator of counselling and psychological services at Concordia. Robinson says that the period between midterms and finals is their busiest at Counselling and Development.
Brittany MacLean is a second-year English literature student at Concordia. She splits her time between her four classes and waitressing the night shift 25 hours a week at Sir Winston Churchill Pub. She sometimes works until as late as 3 a.m. on weeknights and has to wake up a few hours later for her morning classes. She admits to often skipping class if she has worked late the night before.
“Basically all my exams are at the same time this semester. I have all four exams in two days.” MacLean said. “I feel pressured to take on more shifts at work, but there’s only so much you can manage.”
She is one of the many students who had never heard about the psychological services offered at Concordia.
Marlene Gross is the manager of the student success program centre. “We hope all students are aware of our services,” she said. “Every January, we host a Re-Discover Concordia Fair at which many of the services and resources for students have information tables and staff representatives available to make sure students know what they offer and how to access the services.”
The counsellors deal with more than just academic issues. Though students can definitely meet with them to discuss being overwhelmed by class work, they are also available to talk about a multitude of other personal troubles.
Though school, work and money are major stressors in students lives, Parasuco is not alone in admitting that she has personal and family issues that plague her as well.
“One of our biggest problems are relationship issues,” said Robinson. “Not just romantic relationships, though we do deal with a lot of breakups, but problems with family and friends as well.”
Anyone can take advantage of the psychological services that are offered by Concordia, not just students with diagnosed illnesses like depression or anxiety. Whether you are having problems with your boyfriend, having trouble keeping up with your homework or are just feeling down, the department will match you with a counsellor who can help.
“Ideally, we want students to manage their stress in a proactive way, rather than to allow things to reach crisis,” Gross said.
Parasuco tried to make an appointment with Concordia’s psychological services a few weeks ago, around the middle of the semester, but because of the influx of students looking for help at this time of year, she has yet to sit down with a counsellor.
Though Robinson made it seem as though there wasn’t much that could be done about the lack of appointment availability, she insisted that no student who is in need of serious help will be turned away or left without other resources.
If you are someone who habitually suffers from stress, prepare yourself in advance by making an appointment within the first few weeks of classes.
How to avoid the major stressors
While it might be hard to get an appointment right now, Concordia’s counselling and psychological interim director Dale Robinson offers these tips for students to keep stress at bay:
Be prepared. Though you may feel like it’s a bit late for this, do work as it comes up. Don’t procrastinate on something that you’re able to finish in a short period of time.
Take your work one day at a time. Rather than stressing about how much you have to do before the end of the semester, think about what you can do today. If you break your work up and set yourself manageable daily goals, your workload won’t seem so intimidating.
Don’t forget to sleep. Keeping your body well rested will keep you focused and keep your mind working better. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep even if that means sacrificing an hour or two of studying; the extra rest will help you out more than the last-minute cramming.
Eat right. While it’s definitely easier to binge on McDonald’s than make yourself a healthy meal, gorging on junk food can be detrimental to your stress levels. Pack nutritious snacks to bring with you to class or to the library so you don’t find yourself starving and temped by fast food. Chop up vegetables and put them in sandwich bags so that they’re ready to grab and go. Buy fruit and trail mix so that you can keep your energy levels high when you’re studying.
Make time for exercise. Starting a new work-out regime may be the last thing on your to-do list, but keeping active will keep the stress at bay. You may not have time to head to the gym, but take 20 minutes to get away from your laptop and stretch or take a quick jog around the block. The fresh air will clear your head and the physical activity will boost your serotonin levels, which will automatically elevate your mood.
Don’t take on extra commitments. Focus on what’s essential for your classes and don’t get involved in anything new. Say no to the extra shift at work and let someone else plan your friend’s surprise party.
You can find out more about Concordia’s counselling services at counselling.concordia.ca