Your experience at Carleton expands beyond academics. Student life involves balancing transitions, relationships, financial pressures, academic commitments and extra-curriculars, and can all be sources of stress. Learning what causes stress, along with some simple coping strategies, can make it easier to handle the many demands of university life.
Many of the typical day-to-day challenges and stresses of university life can be managed with the support of your friends, families, faith and other communities. In addition, there are numerous resources and tools that can provide you with the information and education needed to build additional skills and gain knowledge that will help you to resolve personal difficulties and enable you to thrive while at Carleton and beyond.
Your mental health, like physical health, can change each day. It’s important to maximize and manage your mental health and well-being through actively monitoring your mental health and accessing resources and services.
Below we’ll examine what it means to be thriving on campus, experiencing everyday stress or having mild mental health concerns. If your concerns are more moderate to complex you are encouraged to contact Health and Counselling Services to schedule an appointment.
Thriving on Campus
Thriving on Campus means you’re experience positive mental health and well-being, with high levels of energy, engagement and functioning. While thriving it’s important to continue to learn more about your mental health, further gain self-awareness and review self-help resources to continue to build coping skills should everyday stress begin to impact your life. You’re encouraged to visit on-campus health and well-being events and stay involved.
Stress is the body’s response to a situation for which we may not feel we have the resources to cope.
When first encountering a stressful event, our bodies evaluate whether we are facing a challenge or a threat. If the event is interpreted as a challenge that can be overcome, then our experience will be different than if it is interpreted as a threat. If faced with a threat, we can experience distress.
Stress causes hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to be released into the bloodstream, leading to physiological changes including increased heart rate, quicker breathing, and sweating. This is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response and this process allows us to deal with short-term stressors that are potentially life-threatening.
However, when this response is experienced for an extended period of time, the stress hormones being released can be detrimental to our health. These hormones can cause:
- A weakened immune system
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Impaired decision making, attention and memory
Anxiety is a response to stress that leads to tension and worry about future events.
Feeling anxious is a normal reaction to stressful situations, and a little bit of anxiety can even positively motivate us. While everyone experiences some anxiety once in a while, it is important to distinguish between normal feelings of anxiety and having a clinical anxiety disorder.
Mild Mental Health Concerns
As a student, you may find you start to develop more persistent difficulties in coping causing some anxiety or lowered moods with an impact on self-care it’s time to consider preventative measures or early intervention. As you progress through your life, experiencing problems at this mild level are often situational and very much so reversible. Taking action before these difficulties become moderate and begin to impact daily functioning is highly recommended.
Early prevention and intervention varies for everyone, but may include the use of peer support, online or Same Day Counselling, connecting with resources such as Empower Me or other online and phone support lines.
- Healthy Minds – Developed by the Royal Ottawa, this app gives you tools to help you cope with stress and other emotions.
- Mindshift – Helps teens and young adults cope with anxiety by helping them change the way they think about it.
- Calm – Guides you through meditation and mindfulness to help you reduce stress and anxiety and sleep better. (Subscription Required)
- Headspace – Guided exercises to help you meditate for 10 minutes a day. (Subscription Required)
- Sanvello – Tracks your mood, health and daily goals and gives you a thought diary to write in. (Subscription Required)