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October 21, 1987 - Image 42

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-10-21

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When everything becomes too much, a good support
system-family, friends, advisers-can help a lot

4

out, so I do, but during the week, it's time to do work, so I do."
Finding your own limits is tricky, but vital. "For each
person there is an optimal level of stress at which they will
function well," says counselor Corazzini of Virginia Common-
wealth. "Anxiety will push some people the night before the
paper is due, and they'll get the job done. Others become
dysfunctional and need to start a week early." And some
fortunate beings actually thrive on stress. David Sze, a Yale
senior in economics and political science, courts stress the way
other people court dates. "I probably go to half my classes," he
says, infuriatingly. "I usually don't do any work until reading
period. Then I work really hard, absolutely manic. I always
tell myself I won't do this again, but I make it through, and it
happens again."
Balancing act: Few people are quite that lucky. For them, the
experts recommend whatever relaxation techniques might
work, from meditating to aerobic exercise. Extracurricular
activities can ease tensions-unless you become involved so
deeply or in so many that they start running your life. "Trouble
starts when you don't have a good balance of all the activities
you want to do," says Diane Dougherty, assistant dean of
student affairs at Grinnell.
Tulane junior Richard Chamberlain, a varsity swimmer, had
to struggle to find the right mix. When he first arrived on
campus he "didn't want to go to class, didn't want to go to swim
practice and didn't want to study," Chamberlain recalls. "All I
wanted to do was sleep. But then I realized Ijust had to cope, and
that things were as bad as they were going to get." Resisting the
temptation to drop swimming, he is now on the varsity team, a
resident adviser and member of Tulane's honors program. Yale
junior Richard Rothschild also struck his own balance. "Fresh-
man year I tried to do everything at once and didn't finish
anything," he recalls. "Then last year I did just one thing at a
time. The feeling of accomplishment I got after finishing one
thing and moving on to the next helped me to go on."
When coping fails, it's time for treatment-and student
stress, burnout and depression are all eminently treatable.

Short-term strategies now abound. At Virginia Common-
wealth, for instance, stress-management workshops of five
sessions help teach students deep muscle relaxation, time man-
agement and test-taking pointers. NYU's Moore, whose coun-
seling service sees about 450 students a year, concentrates on
making them aware of their bodies and attuned to fatigue,
headaches and other warning signs. "Being more aware of
stress enables you to manage it better," he says. In more severe
cases, therapy might be required. A threshold of therapy,
according to Dr. Andrew Thompson of Oregon's Counseling
Center, is to get students back into the swing of things-
"interested in their daily routine and activities again."
'Weird and obsessive': One political-science major at Yale is
living proof of what good counseling can accomplish in even the
most extreme cases. Anorexic in high school, she started run-
ning for long periods every day at Yale. "It became weird and
obsessive," she recalls. "Every day I added a few minutes and
had to run the exact same route. I couldn't take change." Her
weight down to 84 pounds, she entered a hospital and took a
leave. When she returned in 1986, she was bulimic-popping
laxatives like candy mints. Returning home that Christmas,
she found her parents "were destroying each other," and react-
ed, she said, by overdosing on antidepressant pills in a suicide
attempt. But when she returned to school last spring, "Yale
didn't ignore me," she says. "I had weekly appointments with
my dean, met my psychiatrist twice a week and had weekly
weigh-ins." Now she feels she is on the road to mental health.
But therapy can only rescue those who seek it. Some stigma
remains. At Tulane, says social worker Nelkin, "it's the kids
who sit by themselves in their dorm rooms and think about
suicide that we need to reach." Or, do more than think about
it, like the Tulane freshman, depressed over a breakup with
his girlfriend and other personal problems, who hanged him-
self last month after only a week at school. Obviously, the
failure to seek counseling is at most a stage for students so
depressed that they could commit suicide. And obviously, too,
only a relative handful of students get anywhere near this
stage, regardless of the pressure. But the
consequences surrounding burnout are
genuinely worrisome for other reasons,
ones that apply to every student. College is
where students confront some of the great-
est strains of their lives-and also where
they can find more unhealthy ways of es-
caping than there are books in the Co-op. It
is also the last best place to learn how to
cope-a talent that may get you through
not only final exams but a divorce, a firing,
a death after graduation. Stress can have
its benefits. If, that is, it is faced down, and
conquered, in the relatively sheltered
workshop of campus.
SHARON BEGLEY with TERRY ALLEN
in Los Angeles, BRUCE EMOND in Grinnell, Iowa,
JONATHAN EPSTEIN in New Orleans,
JULIE HELLERinNewHaven,
KATHLEEN McKERNAN inSouth Bend,
ST E P H E N W E ST in New York and bureau reports
To the breaking point: Costs keep rising

4

10 NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS

OCTOBER 1987

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