Danielle Dentremont ‘25
Although midterm season is winding down, students’ stress and anxiety remain high. There are the everyday stressors of arriving to an 8 a.m. class on time, as well as more long term anxiety-inducing factors, such as perfectionism and imposter syndrome, that the academic realm provides. In order to provide students with strategies to combat both stress and anxiety, Academic Services and Learning Resources (ASLR) partnered with the Counseling Center to present the “Anxiety, and Stress, and College OH MY!” workshop on Oct. 27.
Led by the Counseling Center’s Emily Wilcox and ASLR’s Christopher Lawrence, the workshop provided an overview of the differences between stress and anxiety, statistics specific to College of the Holy Cross students, strategies for fighting test anxiety, a meditation activity, and more.
“My goal for this event was for students to gain a better understanding of academic stress, how stress might impact themselves or others, and how to develop a personalized plan to help manage stress,” Wilcox said.
Beginning with a presentation portion of the workshop, Wilcox made a point of clarifying to students that stress and anxiety are different, despite the colloquial tendency to use these words interchangeably. Wilcox explained that stress is natural and even motivating in small amounts, whereas suffering from anxiety is a long term and emotionally damaging experience. Touching on the similarities between these two phenomena, Wilcox noted that both stress and anxiety manifest varying emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms that students should be aware of.
Students were then asked to gauge their current stress levels with the Perceived Stress Scale, which aims to help people numerically understand the degree to which varying situations cause them stress. Transitioning to mitigating stress, Lawrence presented on methods for mitigating stress: planning a study schedule ahead of time (particularly by adding an extra day or two of leeway in a schedule in order to account for unexpected changes), diaphragmatic breathing, and the Pomodoro Method (for example, studying for 30 minutes, taking a break, and resuming study for 30 minutes).
“Holy Cross is an academically rigorous institution and students want to do their best. This creates a perfect storm for anxiety, stress, and perfectionism. Roughly 80% of college students report being stressed sometimes or often,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence and Wilcox also touched upon the signs that perfectionism and imposter syndrome are plaguing a student’s life. Wilcox reminded students that “pure perfection does not exist,” so students can fight perfectionism by reminding themselves not to strive for the unattainable.
In closing the workshop, Wilcox led students in a progressive muscle relaxation exercise during which students were directed to tense and relax different muscles while practicing diaphragmatic breathing. While this exercise may alleviate stress for some students, Wilcox emphasized that “no one size fits all” and that managing stress is a skill—meaning that crafting an individualized method for reducing stress requires time and practice.
“If students could walk away from this event with one thing, I would hope it is the knowledge that they are not alone in experiencing stress and that there are resources, such as the Counseling Center, which are available as support,” Wilcox said.