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Workshop reveals secrets of stress management

Mary-Ann Hansen is a support counsellor. Student support services hosted the workshop.

Mary-Ann Hansen is a support counsellor. Student support services hosted the workshop.

Insomnia, anger, frustration, inability to concentrate or changes in your appetite: if you experience any of those symptoms, you might be approaching the danger zone.

That’s according to the  Canadian Mental Health Association test presented at the Stress Management workshop on March 1 that only two people attended.

In the midst of the semester, when midterms come one after another, experiencing stress is not a rare situation for Algonquin students. The college does its best to support them in that challenging time of the year through the workshop that aims to teach students how to understand, evaluate and prevent stress.

“When we are talking about stress, typically it’s just our perception and experience,” said John Muldoon, a counsellor at the Student Support Services, who managed the workshop.

Historically, stress helped our predecessors to avoid attacks of animals, thus saving their lives.

“Nowadays we don’t have to worry about animals attacking us, but our body doesn’t realize sometimes that the test isn’t the bear,” said Muldoon. “It’s important to understand, are we actually in danger or our brain is just proceeding it?”

According to statistics, out of all things people worry about in a year, only two per cent come true.

Exams and tests, however, are not the only things that may cause stress.

“Students usually experience stress when trying to meet their budget, and balancing studies with full-time job,” said Mary-Ann Hansen, a counsellor at Algonquin’s Counselling Services.

She added that students don’t always pay attention to the initial symptoms of stress that may lead to serious consequences.

For clarity, Hansen compared stress in our body to scales – the more that is put on one side, the more that is needed on the other side to reach the balance.

In the workshop, students learned that stress itself is not the biggest problem. What is more important is how long you are experiencing it for.

“You can’t maintain that over a long period of time,” said Muldoon. “If you have a high level of stress eventually you’re going to be exhausted, you’re going to crash afterwards”

Stress is not just a psychological experience, according to Muldoon, but also a biological one and when prolonged it may have biological consequences.

“So we can have problems with ailments, we can get sick more often,” said Muldoon. “Socially it can affect relationships, academically it can affect our ability to perform well on tests. Stress is one of those things, the longer we experience it for, the more consequences we get from it.”

When coping with stress, it is necessary to identify the reasons for it and follow a daily routine, including having seven to nine hours of sleep, exercising, having a healthy diet and practicing diaphragmatic breathing.

“It’s very important to start from one thing,” said Hansen. She added that even one thing can make a big difference.

Among the series of workshops organized by the Student Learning Centre, the Stress Management workshop is the most requested by the committee. It runs two times per semester to coincide with the midterms and final exams and is part of the mental health awareness week that ran just before reading week.

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