Parkland offers ways to help manage stress

Photo by Lindsay Cox | Wellness Coordinator Sara Maxwell lounges at her desk making good use of one of her stress relievers.

Photo by Lindsay Cox |
Wellness Coordinator Sara Maxwell lounges at her desk making good use of one of her stress relievers.

EvyJo Compton

Staff Writer

Stress affects everyone on a daily basis—some more or less than others. Every person has a different way of coping with stress, but if not taken care of or coped with appropriately, stress can have harmful effects on the body.

Sarah Maxwell is the Wellness Coordinator at Parkland. Part of her job is assisting students with stress.

“I work with students on wellness initiative, as well as faculty and staff,” Maxwell says. “I help people understand stress, and how to cope with it.”

Stress is usually caused by what is happening in someone’s life. For students this often includes events like midterms and finals.

“If we’re going by the textbook definition,” Maxwell says, “[Stress] is a mental or physical strain caused by circumstances or even by specific life events. We see a lot more stress around midterms and finals. College is something that… can be very stressful– keeping up with classes and grades can be hard to do, especially if you throw in work or a family.”

Stress doesn’t just put a mental strain on a person, but can do the body harm as well.

“Thinking about stress in a biological sense… it affects the body in a physical and mental way,” Maxwell says. “For example, you might feel a little bit moodier, or you might even compromise some friendships because you’re not managing your stress– you aren’t being true to yourself. Some other things that can happen physically are blood pressure, heart disease, obesity or weight gain/loss.”

Maxwell helps students with managing their stress. She focuses specifically on time management, and all the factors that go along with time management.

“A huge thing for students is time management,” Maxwell says. “I have an open-door policy. Students can come in and talk about the stresses of their day, or if they need help with stress management.

“A good sleep schedule is what helps students—a specific time of night and morning. For example, some people may need eight hours to function normally, whereas some other people may need only six hours. If you know how much time you need to sleep, you can then look at the time you have during the day. You will find pockets of time that you really aren’t managing your time well. These are the times that students can focus on leisure activities.”

Parkland offers a variety of activities for students to use to help manage stress levels. These include relaxation workshops, a relaxation room, and the Center for Academic Success.

“At Parkland College, we have what’s called a relaxation workshop,” Maxwell says. “We have one more this semester. We do a little bit of stretching, we practice 4-7-8 breathing technique, and we do some guided meditation.”

The purpose the of 4-7-8 breathing technique is to slow down the body’s breathing to allow students take a moment away from their stress.

“When you become stressed, you start to breathe very shallow,” Maxwell says. “The 4-7-8 breathing technique makes you take a step back from your stress and allows you to relax. So, to do the technique, you breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, and then breath out for a count of eight.”

After practicing the breathing technique, the workshop moves on to guided meditation with relaxing music. Maxwell says that they hope to add more to the workshop in the future. 

“Also in the student life, we have a relaxation and meditation room,” Maxwell says. “There’s some recliners back there; it’s temperature controlled and aromatic controlled. All you must do is go to the front desk and ask to use it.”

Maxwell lists Parkland’s fitness center as another resource available to students, as well as the Center for Academic Success and counseling center.

“Parkland also has a fitness center that people can use for the exercise part of relieving stress, but you have to sign up for Introductory Kinesiology class, or a community course,” Maxwell says. “If you’re struggling with academic success, we have our Center for Academic success. If you think that your stress is branching into clinical anxiety or depression, we do have our Counseling and Advising Center to help.”

Along with the opportunities that Parkland offers, students can manage stress on their own time. They can do this by participating in leisure activities such as art, exercise, and meditation.

“People will participate in leisure activities,” Maxwell says. “It can be talking your dog on a walk, other form of exercise, meditate, and many other things.”

Stress can be caused by many different factors, and being a student in college can exasperate other stressors, which in turn can have a negative effect on a student’s academics.

“Stress affects everyone– just in different ways,” Maxwell says. “It really depends on how people balance and cope with stress. A student is a well-rounded individual. They aren’t affected just by school. It could be a new job, getting married, moving is stressful. Also, death in the family can impact the stress levels of students. It really can leave an impact on the academic side of things.”

Stress is not a one-time event either; it comes in all shapes, sizes and forms. It is a daily occurrence that must be dealt continuously.

“Stress needs to be managed constantly,” Maxwell says. “It can’t be something that you find yourself in a stressful situation, and then you decide to manage it. For example, if you are one who practices meditation, you can’t wait until you get stressed out, and then meditate to feel better. You need to meditate consistently to stay centered and manage stress…If you need help, reach out to family members, friends, or even your professors.”

For more information on the resources listed above, students can make an appointment to meet with Maxwell.