‘Peace of Mind’ week seeks to subdue stress

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Picture yourself come December. Your anxiety rises steadily. A good night’s sleep would be your wildest dream–if  you could sleep long enough to dream, that is. Finals are staring you dead in the face, and you’re ready to welcome back good old stress, your constant companion during finals week.

While at times a powerful motivator, unmanaged and excessive stress can undermine academic achievement and health. Alpha Epsilon Delta, Saint Louis University’s chapter of the National Premedical Honor Society, recognized the adverse effects stress can have on college students and took action to prepare students before finals week hits.

“When stress levels are high, it impairs your productivity,” Ashley Klein, Alpha Epsilon Delta vice president of special service, said. “Even though a little bit of stress can be a good motivation to get work done, when stress levels get high, it can weaken your immune system.”

AED, along with Active Minds, the Public Health Undergraduate Student Association, Unite for Sight and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars have collaborated to bring the second annual Peace of Mind week to the SLU community from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4. “We first organized Peace of Mind Week because pressure to be academically successful can sometimes cause undergraduate students to neglect caring for themselves,” AED President Sara Rendell said.

According to Klein, AED reached out to other student organizations to expand beyond the realm of pre-medicine students and branch out to the entire SLU community. “Pre-med students are really stressed and focused on getting good grades and studying. They can become closed-minded and don’t focus on what’s going on with other people,” Klein said. “I know other students are the exact same way. You get focused on what you’re studying and don’t think of anything else.”

Peace of Mind week began on Oct. 31 with “Puppies in the Quad” day which offered students an opportunity to get their week off to a cuddly start. Throughout the week, Peace of Mind week will host events aimed at reducing stress and educating students about health and wellness. According to Klein, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to exercise. Peace of Mind week features multiple events involving physical activity such as free Tai Chi, Zumba and Yoga sessions in the Simon Recreation Center.

“All of the events at the Simon Rec are to promote exercise and do something physical with your body instead of studying,” Klein said. On Nov. 3, a stress, mental health and wellness discussion panel will be open to students in the Kelly Auditorium from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. According to Klein, professors from the Department of Psychology, School of Public Health, School of Medicince and a counselor from Student Health and Counseling will field questions regarding stress, sleep and mental health.

“We wanted to actually teach students about dangers of stress and what they can do to improve their wellness and mental health, and that’s why we’re having the discussion panel,” Klein said. The week culminates on Nov. 4 with a trip to the City Museum. For $7, students receive a ticket, pizza and transportation. According to Klein, the change of scenery provides an opportunity to reduce stress.

“Everyone loves going to the City Museum and it’s a great way to get off campus, take a break from school and studying, get into the St. Louis community and have fun,” Klein said. According to Rendell, working out, eating out with friends, baking, singing and dancing are all effective releases from stress. She also said that the two most basic things students can do for their overall wellness are to sleep enough every night and leave room for things that make them the most happy.

Klein agreed that a lack of sleep can have harmful side effects, especially when students pull all-night study sessions. “Sleep is really important for keeping the immune system functioning properly and consolidating the information you’re learning,” Klein said. “You’re actually better off going to sleep than pulling an all-nighter to study.”

'Peace of Mind' week included a free yoga class on Nov. 2 in the Simon Recreation Center (Kristen Miano / Associate News Editor)

Klein said she hopes that the events during Peace of Mind week will help students manage their time and, in turn, their stress. She said she acknowledges that it is impossible to completely eliminate stress, but she hopes that the events will help students handle their stress when the situations arise. “It is productive to relieve your stress,” Klein said. “You’re not missing out on getting things done because it’s important to take care of yourself too.”