It’s not hard to recognize the causes of stress and anxiety. Mounting academic and professional pressures reinforced by the expectations of parents can wear down the psyche.

Jana Lynn Patterson, Elon University’s associate vice president for Student Life and dean of Student Health and Wellness, said the pressures can be particularly tough during times of transition.

“Everyone’s stressed at the end of a semester or year — it’s crunch time,” Patterson said. “But we like to pay special attention to what we call the bookend periods, where new students are coming in and adjusting to college life and where seniors prepare themselves mentally for a life outside of the educational institution.”

Patterson said it is important students remedy their stress through healthy options, such as exercise and sleep. 

“Some students don’t get regular sleep while they’re using chemicals to feel better, and it just doesn’t work in the long run,” Patterson said. “We do know from research that eating right, sleeping and exercising are all good ways to cope with stress.”

Elon offers many programs and activities for students to combat their personal stresses through healthy means. Campus recreational facilities, SPARKS and SUB activities, Yoga Club and the Iron Tree Meditation Club are just a few of the available resources.

Christopher Bertrand, student adviser of the Iron Tree Zen Meditation Club, first learned about meditation from a high school world religion course. His semester in-focus study was on Buddhism, which inspired him to visit a Buddhist temple.

“I just loved the way it made me feel,” Bertrand said. “Mindfulness meditation really helps with relaxation and fighting anxiety. It’s scientifically proven. Our approach is very down to earth.”

In 2012, The Association for University and College Counseling Centers Directors (AUCCCD) found that anxiety and depression consistently contended for the primary concern counselors had for their respective students.

In surveying 400 collegiate counseling centers, representing nearly half of all AUCCCD membership, the organization found that counselors were overwhelmingly concerned for the mental health of their students. Seventy percent of directors believed the number of students with severe psychological problems on their campus had increased in the past year.

Anxiety topped the charts with 41.6 percent of counseled students suffering from the affliction, followed by depression at 36.4 percent. Relationship problems tailed both at 35.8 percent. Bertrand said all students could serve to benefit from Zen meditation. He said focusing on just breathing is like doing mental “bicep curls,” enforcing a “live in the moment” mentality that extends outside of club meetings.

“Most of our stress is mental and overthinking stuff even when it’s not directly influencing us or in front of us,” Bertrand said. “That’s really unproductive and can be damaging long term.” 


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