Stress Awareness Week

PennWest covers stress awareness and mental health


Hannah Williams, Staff Writer

In honor of International Stress Awareness Week, PennWest California students and faculty are discussing stress management and the stigma surrounding mental health.

According to the International Stress Management Association, International Stress Awareness Week occurs annually from Nov. 7-11 and aims to raise awareness and promote healthy coping skills for overwhelming amounts of stress.

PennWest California students shared what has been weighing heavy on their minds for the coming weeks.

Alyssa Lambert-Alonso, a PennWest California Senior, often finds herself feeling overwhelmed by mountains of assignments as the end of the semester rapidly approaches. She also often worries about “trying to prepare for life after graduation next semester.”

“After a long day, I try to take time out for myself and do some self-care,” Lambert-Alonso said.

Lambert-Alonso manages her stress by reading, turning on her favorite comfort show, and going on walks.

Junior Katelyn Gillen finds it difficult to balance her criminal justice studies, family, and trying to navigate the social aspects of college. She keeps her stress at bay by playing video games, taking a nap, or watching Netflix.

Zach Smith, a graduate student majoring in Education, struggles with managing friendships along with anxiety. He decompresses after a strenuous day by scrolling TikTok, taking a hot shower, and “talking it out” with someone he trusts.

Rachel Michaels, Associate Director of Wellness for all three PennWest campuses, says that students often come to see her and confide in her about their stress. The issues overwhelming students usually consists of classes, doubting their chosen majors or being unsure of future plans, relationship or family problems, struggles with substance use, and even to grumble about drama with roommates.

Michaels states that stress in large quantities can be bad for you, but it can also be useful in potentially harmful situations where you need to be alert.

“For the most part it goes back to our instincts,” Michaels said. “Kind of like fight or flight.”

Michaels frequently advises students who are feeling overextended to be outdoors, “get some sunshine, get the vitamin D,” and to do things that make them feel happy.

“It really does make a difference on your body,” Michaels said. “You don’t have to sit there and study for five hours straight. That’s, in my opinion, not very productive either. After a certain point, you kind of just stop retaining the information.”

Michaels explains that negative impacts of stress can include disruptions in eating and sleeping patterns, exercise and energy, and the way in which you function with friends and family.

Michaels alleviates students’ stress by talking with them about options, providing them with coping skills, and arranging counseling for them, if the situation demands it.

Michaels advises students to listen to their bodies – to learn how their bodies process and respond to stress. With winter approaching and daylight-saving time darkening the skies earlier, Michaels advocates for the importance of students taking study breaks and not overburdening themselves with intense amounts of pressure.

“If you feel like you need a break, let yourself take a break,” Michaels said. “It’s okay. You’re going to be more productive after you take a walk or do whatever it is that makes you happy and gets that stress released from your body.”

Michaels advises against “all-nighters” and drinking caffeine at night, and wants to inform students that it’s “never too late” to start speaking with campus Success Centers. The centers provide students with study tips, educational workshops, and are featuring an upcoming presentation on stress management during finals week.

“There’s usually a lot of free things during finals week, so take advantage of those,” Michaels said.

PennWest California’s Health and Wellness Center assists students with personal, social, and psychological needs and is located on the ground floor of Carter Hall.