The Counseling Center staff is available to help individuals and groups cope with crises and tragedies. Crisis management is a way to receive valuable information about dealing with a crisis and to learn about self-care tools without revisiting the trauma. The goal is to understand your reactions, learn effective coping skills, and get back to a normal routine.
Periods of heightened stress, like during midterms, can bring on lots of feelings of nervousness, trouble getting to sleep, etc. The Counseling Center has experienced an increase in students seeking help over the past few years. The following information is intended to describe some of the feelings that people might experience during highly stressful times, the stages in which they often occur, and what you can do to help yourself or a friend who is experiencing them.
Initially following a crisis, many people feel a bit numb and dazed. Some find it difficult to concentrate, and might fall behind in their studies. After a crisis, some people experience more anxious feelings. This is the way anxiety typically works– it is cumulative and builds gradually, usually over the course of weeks of heightened stress.
Common anxiety symptoms include nervousness, trembling, dizziness, shortness of breath, inability to slow down or relax, pounding or racing heart, trouble concentrating, headaches, and muscle aches. Talking can help. Chances are that some of your friends are having similar feelings. Talking with them about these feelings can be good for all of you.
Panic attacks are sudden surges of certain feelings (adrenaline surges) that can become frightening and even overwhelming. See our page on anxiety for information and coping skills or give us a call. Counseling usually helps with panic attacks, often within the first or second session, especially if the attacks have started recently. You may also find our Relaxation Resources page to be helpful.
Sleep difficulties are not uncommon in times of stress. It is very common to have more trouble falling and/or staying asleep during stressful times like exams. Here are some things you can do to help:
- Try to avoid watching television or surfing the Web just prior to going to bed. Stimulating your brain with bright lights and shifting screen images can prevent you from winding down at the end of the day.
- Avoid drinking caffeine for several hours before going to bed.
- Generally speaking, it is a good idea to avoid naps. Try to maintain a regular sleep routine, with a similar bedtime every night.
- Exercise is a great stress reliever and moderate exercise by late afternoon has been proven to promote sleep at night. However, try to avoid exercise just before bed, which can make your body too revved up to relax.
- Find something relaxing to do in the evening. Some people like to take hot baths or listen to soothing music. Check out our Relaxation Resources page which includes links to meditation sites, music, etc.
- Remember that alcohol might make you feel drowsy, but it will interfere with the ability to get a good night's rest by causing more disturbed, shallow sleep, and early waking.
- A glass of milk or a carbohydrate-rich snack at bedtime is usually helpful.
Increased irritability is common with increased stress. Especially lately, many people are noticing that they feel bitter or irate, or have bursts of anger. Again, it is helpful to talk about these feelings and, if they are related, to connect them with current events that may have you on edge. You can also channel this extra energy constructively by keeping busy, exercising, and focusing on day-to-day plans.
Sadness is a natural feeling. Though, over time, a person may become increasingly sad and blue. Look out for such symptoms as loss of appetite, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, social withdrawal, etc. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should especially consider contacting the Counseling Center to arrange for an appointment and recommendations.
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The Counseling Center offers REACT, an educational, growth-oriented crisis management program for students who have experienced a trauma or who have been impacted by a trauma. We also offer individual counseling, support for groups who would like to meet together, and structured workshops for individuals who would like to learn more about coping with trauma without having to engage in counseling.
Find out more about crisis management by making an appointment. A counselor will discuss your issues of concern and help you to formulate a plan.