University Counseling Center to host sleep and stress screenings

By Ashlyn Korienek | 4/19/17 9:30pm

GVL/Hannah Zajac - Students work inside the Mary Idema Pew Library on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.
by Hannah Zajac and Hannah Zajac / The Lanthorn

With final deadlines and graduation swiftly approaching, students are intaking large amounts of caffeine and pulling all-nighters on weekdays to complete papers and study for exams the next morning. However, this stress and lack of sleep can come at a great cost.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 30 percent of college students have reported that stress negatively impacts their academic performance. Additionally, 85 percent have felt overwhelmed by their workload at some point over the past year.

With that, several departments at Grand Valley State University and in West Michigan are partnering to host the annual “Exam Cram” from Monday, April 17, to Friday, April 28, to combat student wellness and success during finals.

During Exam Cram, the University Counseling Center will offer a variety of events including a sleep and stress screening, a stress management seminar and the chance to meet therapy dogs.

Melissa Selby-Theut, coordinator of outreach and peer education at the University Counseling Center, said sleep and stress screenings allow students to harness stress management techniques, and take control of any stress or sleep-related concerns.

“It's certainly not a clinical diagnosis, but it allows us to see if their stress levels are higher than average, moderate or lower than average,” Selby-Theut said, “and to determine whether some stress level management techniques might be able to help.”

While a lack of sleep can often contribute to stress, she said the screenings can help improve academic performance, concentration, memory recall and other problems that can arise from busy schedules.

Monitoring sleep patterns and stress can be both academically and mentally crucial, as students navigate a plethora of other problems throughout their lives.

“Making sure that you are sleeping enough and getting adequate sleep is going to help with information recall,” Selby-Theut said. “It's going to help with concentration, and we know those things are really important to performing well on exams, also to staying healthy and to avoid getting sick.”

To maintain a healthy balance while studying, Selby-Theut recommends students engage in physical activity and take breaks. She said reaching out to friends can also be an easy way to balance mental health and relax before finals.

Although students might stray away from taking breaks due to lost time, Selby-Theut said the benefits have proven to make a difference.

“Actually taking the time to go outside and get some fresh air, move your body and get your heart rate up has been shown to be positively correlated to good grades and mental health,” she said. “So taking the time to do that, even though it takes time away from studying, can actually be beneficial in the long run in terms of academic performance.”

While the Counseling Center emphasizes the importance of self-care, Selby-Theut said Exam Cram aims to help students relax during a variety of events without losing focus during finals week.

“We know that a lack of sleep takes away from memory, concentration and recall,” she said, “Getting enough sleep during this time is really important to keeping any existing stress at bay and prevent additional stress, as well as perform optimally in classes and on exams.”

Screenings will take place Monday, April 24, from noon to 2 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center, while students can also call to make an appointment during the week and talk to a clinician about any mental health concerns.

In addition, West Michigan Therapy Dogs are available for students to meet Monday, April 24, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. located in the Mary Idema Pew Library, and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, located at the Steelcase Library on the Pew Campus.

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