New semesters are often met with one of two outlooks: one filled with hope and enthusiasm for the learning and growing to take place over the next few months or one riddled with self-doubt and feelings of impending doom.
While classes, social lives and other responsibilities may inspire the second of the aforementioned outlooks, there are some people on campus who can offer valuable advice to ensure at least somewhat smooth sailing as we enter the Spring 2016 semester.
Julian Pessier, the Interim Associate Dean and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) says that with self-compassion and patience, the new semester is a great time to try new things, meet new people and make some changes. However, Pessier says that these changes should not be too drastic and unrealistic.
“The biggest mistake that I notice students make at the beginning of a semester is underestimate how difficult change is and set unrealistic goals,” Pessier said, noting that it is harder to follow unrealistic goals, which in turn makes it easier to fall into bad habits again.
“The old cliche ‘Everything in moderation’ comes from the fact that changing behavior requires great planning and persistence, but less so perfection and self-criticism,” Pessier said.
Looking for a way to destress in a short amount of time? Pessier says that often people do not realize how long they have spent indoors, which creates an environment of lethargy. Take a 10-15 minute walk.
“As difficult as it may be to motivate for your next study break, get wrapped up in those mittens and scarves and go for a walk in the freezing cold air,” Pessier said. “It can make a big difference in mood, as well as perspective on all of the work that needs to get done.”
Jay Souza, the Director of Campus Recreation, offers the rec center as an excellent way to promote both physical and mental wellness.
In a survey of people who utilize the rec center, it was found that by participating in Campus Recreation programs, services or facilities, 80 percent of students report improvement of increased stress management and 89 percent of students report improved or increased feeling of well-being. Furthermore, 63 percent reported improvement in their academic performance and 64 percent report improvement in their ability to develop friendships.
“We offer a variety of formal and informal recreational opportunities,” Souza said. “Formal would be inclusive of group fitness classes, personal training, intramurals, club sports and special events. Informal includes open recreation such as drop-in fitness, weight room, cardio machines, track and open free-play. By offering so many options, students have the ability to find something to suit their needs and schedule.”
For beginners trying to get into a fitness schedule, Souza recommends something structured, such as a group fitness class, personal training, intramural sports or a club sport.
“If they want to participate in open rec, start slow and try to get 30 minutes of continuous activity for most days of the week, but at least three times a week,” Souza said.
Dean of Students Timothy Ecklund unwinds with swimming, but finds that meditation is also effective.
“There has been a lot of attention lately being given to meditation as healthy option to reduce levels of stress and increase a sense of well-being,” Ecklund said.
As for school work, Ecklund emphasized personal responsibility.
“Prioritize your coursework and keep focused throughout the semester. Pay attention to your own well-being and make sure you get enough sleep.”
One more tip from Pessier: “Before everyone settles into the new semester’s routine, actively and consciously set the goal of talking to one new person, making at least one new friend,” he said. “I know from my work at CAPS how many interesting, funny, brilliant people this university is filled with, but many of us are very cautious animals that like to stick with the familiar. Mix it up a little.”