Wellness at Penn: Managing stress in uncertain times 

The University resource has posted advice on helping to cope with emotional distress.

Penn’s campus in autumn.

The physical toll of stress is undeniable, helping students cope with unprecedented violence in the Middle East and the cascading effect rippling across college campuses, Wellness at Penn has published a new resource aimed at helping students manage stress amid uncertain times.

Penn Today reached out to Associate Provost and Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé to ask about the resources Wellness offers and ways to balance wellbeing in times of emotional distress.

Why is it important to manage stress?

Stress management is a key aspect of maintaining both physical and mental health, which ultimately affects every facet of our students’ lives, in and out of the classrooms.

What are some signs that someone is not dealing well with stress?

Stress can present itself in many ways and often varies for each individual person. Manifestations include physical symptoms, including headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue, to uncontrollable and intrusive thoughts, feelings of anger, and hopelessness. For others, it creates an initial sense of numbness. It’s important to remember that these feelings are normal, and that for most people, while these feeling can be challenging, they remain manageable. It’s even more important to know that treatments are available when these feeling become pervasive and paralyzing. Seeking support, whether from peers or trained professionals, can help us to feel less overwhelmed and provide strategies to help us cope.

Why was it important for Wellness at Penn to remind students about these resources now?

Many on our campus have been directly and deeply affected by the violence in the Middle East. Witnessing this violence—even from afar—can cause incredible stress, anxiety, and fear. While we want to keep abreast of the situation, it can be difficult to be inundated with graphic images and firsthand accounts of the violence on the news, social media, and even in conversations with friends, relatives, and peers. Additionally, trying to weed out misinformation adds another layer of challenge. Though there are many variables that are out of our individual control, there are steps we can take, both individually and collectively, to cope with the many feelings that times of crisis bring up.

What are some ways students can manage stress?

Stress can be managed on an individual basis by adopting daily coping strategies such as deep breathing and relaxation techniques, exercising, protecting and nurturing restful sleep, setting goals, promoting brain rest by disconnecting from news and social media, and gratitude journaling. Students are also encouraged to seek support from peers if they are experiencing stress and anxiety: talking about the feelings that are coming up, and potential triggers for those feelings, can help reduce their intensity. Whether it’s seeking community with your peers on campus, talking with a friend or family member, or visiting with a member of our counseling team through Student Health and Counseling, students should remember they are not alone and there are resources to help them cope.

Wellness at Penn continues to offer a safe space for students to seek support, whether at our counseling offices at 3624 Market Street or through our Let’s Talk program in various campus buildings. Our Let’s Talk clinicians are available for free and confidential drop-in conversations at various locations across campus. Students can talk about any stress and anxiety they are feeling and work through their emotions. Students can also call 215-746-WELL (9355) to speak with a mental health provider 24/7. Additionally, our Caring for Yourself and Others: Stress, Distress, and Crisis and our Get Help Now pages offer immediate resources to help in times of crisis.