Barry McNamara  |   Published September 19, 2019

Stress Management 101

Faculty and upper-class students offer freshmen tips about how to stay healthy and avoiding anxiety.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The scenario is all too familiar to many college freshmen – anxiety over the first big exam or paper, plus some pangs of homesickness, plus navigating new social circles, plus time management concerns due to an extracurricular activity or two.

It all adds up to one word – stress.

SEAN SCHUMM: "Sleep is a big deal" to stay healthy and dealing with stress in college. SEAN SCHUMM: "Sleep is a big deal" to stay healthy and dealing with stress in college.Members of Monmouth College’s freshman class recently attended a convocation on the subject of stress as part of their “Introduction to Liberal Arts” curriculum. Led by Monmouth kinesiology faculty members Sean Schumm and Jen Braun, the session offered practical advice for anyone dealing with stress, some of it delivered by junior and senior kinesiology students.

The instructors explained to the ILA students that stress is inevitable, but the way it’s managed makes the difference between those who are “stressed out” and those who have a healthier lifestyle.

“There’s no magic to completely eliminating all stress in your life,” said Schumm.

“Our bodies are designed to encounter stress,” said Braun. “But when the stress continues over time and leads to poor sleep and turning to food, alcohol or drugs to combat it, then we’ve got some problems.”

A four-point plan

Schumm simplified managing stress to four main points: moving the body through exercise; consuming more water and vegetables and less sugar and processed food; developing a sleep routine; and eliminating “clutter.”

On the last point, Schumm advised students on the “touch it once” principle, using email as an example. Rather than opening an email and then putting it aside to handle later, Schumm recommended finding a time in the day to open emails when they can be acted upon.

“That way, you do it once and it’s done,” he said of reading and responding. “You can check that box and get it off your plate.”

He also recommended a “pirate map” approach – lay out a simple routine of no more than seven steps to navigate their day. Steps could include showing up to all classes, spending a full 9-to-5 day on academic-related activities and going to bed at a consistent hour.

“Sleep is a big deal,” said Schumm, who shared with the students that he keeps a pirate map grid on his desk to help him manage his day.

The topic of sleep was also addressed by one of the student speakers, Brady Boyd ’20 of Bartonville, Ill., who said poor sleep habits during his freshman year led to extra stress.

“I was staying up to around 1 or 2 a.m.,” he told the freshmen. “I was there for my classes, but I wasn’t ‘present.’”

Boyd fixed that problem by settling on a consistent time to go to bed and to wake up. He also began using an app that provided ambient sound to help him fall asleep.

Of course, there are a few key times during the year when students don’t want to fall asleep, and Schumm offered a suggestion.

“Caffeine from things like coffee and energy drinks aren’t necessarily bad,” he said. “The poison is in the dose. If you really need to play the trump card of caffeine, save it for when you really, really need it.”

The rest of the time, he advised, drinking water is always a good call, especially for those trying to keep off extra weight.

“You don’t want to drink your calories,” he said.

Other helpful tips offered during the convocation were to make use of the College’s new purified water stations; to use meal plan flex dollars at Scots Market or The POD to stock up on healthy snacks; and to get involved in the College’s intramural programs to help check the exercise box.

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