By Matt Holzapfel
College can be a stressful time, nobody knows this better than students. Except, that is, for the hard working people in Elon’s Student Counseling Department. Counseling Services offers a variety of services to Elon students, from stress-relieving seminars to group meetings to individual counseling.
The Counseling department’s latest endeavor, however, is something that not many students may know about. Jennifer Brigman is a counselor at Elon University with specialties in mindfulness, family therapy, and social justice concerns, just to name a few things. “Elon’s mindfulness program is based on a program that originated at Duke University called Koru Mindfulness aimed at teaching mindfulness to emerging adults,” said Brigman. “Elon has been providing Koru Mindfulness workshops since 2014, a collaborative effort of Counseling Services and the Truitt Center.” The workshops have just recently started up again, and are being held from February 28 to March 9. “Ideally, each workshop is about 12 students, but smaller groups work as well,” added Brigman. “Popularity has fluctuated, but is higher now than ever! We try to do 2 workshops, in addition to one 4-hour silent retreat, each semester.” College students often find themselves subject to stressful times due to a variety of things, whether it’s a lack of sleep or trying to juggle school work and having a social life. This stress can contribute to compromised mental health, among other dangerous symptoms, according to lovetoknow.com.
A survey done by the Associated Press in 2008 found that four out of ten college students report they feel stressed often. One out of five say they feel stressed most of the time, and one out of four students report experiencing stress daily. One in ten students were also reported to have thoughts of suicide. “Students live in a world of constant high demand, not only academically but socially, emotionally, developmentally and arguably, spiritually,” said Brigman. “Many students come to college without the necessary coping skills or self-awareness to effectively and healthily manage negative emotions or situations. There are countless sociocultural and interpersonal considerations that must be made here (values, personality differences, belief structures, mental and emotional development, maturity, ability to articulate thoughts/feelings, etc.) that all play into who one is and how they may handle the amount of stress they encounter.”
While these types of workshops are undoubtedly helping many students cope with and better understand stress, they are not always available to students anytime during the year. So what else can students do to get help with stress? “Take care of yourself. You’re not going to get far just thinking about self-care,” explained Brigman. “You actually have to do something in order to get any benefits! Eat good food. SLEEP as much as you can. Move your body. Read something for fun. Laugh at silly things. Don’t take all of life so seriously. Let yourself and others just BE as they are for once. Recognize when you are being judgmental of yourself or others and AVOID doing it like the plague; it’s not helpful. Be authentic to yourself and less concerned about other’s experiences, perceptions, beliefs, ideals, actions…you can only control and change you.”
Despite all of this, it is still fairly common for college students to find themselves losing sleep and pulling their hair out (figuratively and literally) because they are stressed out over one thing or another. While each student has their own story and therefore their own personal needs, there is a multitude of resources available to them through Elon’s Counseling Services. “The Counseling Services staff are fantastic,” said Brigman, you can get to know all the counselors who work at Elon and their areas of expertise here. While there is no session limit for students, Brigman did add that the dedicated staff is currently “swamped” and that they “cannot guarantee to see anyone on a regular basis.” That being said, it is still highly recommended that you talk to someone if you are feeling stressed or depressed, even if it is just a friend or family member while you are waiting to meet with a professional counselor.
For more information on Elon’s Mindfulness initiative and the Mindfulness Workshop, check out their Facebook page Mindful Elon. Counseling Services provides services on an appointment-only basis, except in the event of an emergency. To schedule an appointment you can call (336) 278-7280. From August through May, appointments are available Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.