Friday afternoon on the second floor of the LSA Building, a dozen students, faculty members and administrators talked about everyday stress in-between bites of pita bread and hummus from Jerusalem Garden.
The workshop, titled “Self-Care in Troubling Times: How to Prepare and Building Resiliency,” focused on techniques for coping with anxiety and stress as well as providing different perspectives on what self-care looks like. Hosted by the LSA Undergraduate Education Campus Climate Committee, this was the second in a series intended to foster community dialogue about prevalent issues on campus.
LSA alum Shamaila Ashraf facilitated the event. Ashraf is a program director for the Inclusive Campus Corps, a fellowship program for undergraduate students that offers diversity and inclusion training for those leadership positions. Ashraf said the speed and overwhelming nature of everyday life as a student made it easy to forget to monitor one's own well-being.
“We’re all doing a lot day to day,” Ashraf said. “We’re all activists, we’re all scholars, professionals, students. We’re doing a lot and never really take a chance to think about, ‘OK, what are we doing for ourselves and how are we processing all of these things?’ A big thing I’ve learned when it comes to self-care is if you can’t help yourself, it becomes very hard to help others.”
Carol Tell, a lecturer at the Sweetland Writing Center and the director of the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, helped Ashraf orchestrate the workshop. She said the event was designed to apply the whole campus community.
“These are times where we’re all sort of enmeshed in difficult or traumatic experiences in our community, in the broader world, and it can be exhausting,” Tell said. “I’ve noticed that many of us, in all of our different communities, often feel overwhelmed, so we thought this might be a good way to address what we can do about that.”
Participants shared personal experiences about how they dealt with difficult situations with one another in pairs and in small group dialogues.
Though self-care can look different depending on the person, the term generally refers to habitual activities that reduce stress and promote physical and mental well-being, such as watching a movie, meditating or going on a run.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems on college campuses, with 85 percent of students saying they had felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do at some point within the last year and 30 percent reporting that stress had negatively affected their academic performance in the 2015 National College Health Assessment.
LSA sophomore Alia Meliki said self-care matters to prevent students from burning out.
“I make sure I know myself, and what works and doesn’t work for me,” she said. “I also make sure to not measure myself against others because I feel like, especially in this community, we tend to have a standard that is based off of someone else’s success, while this person has a completely different set of skills and opportunities than I might have. Taking that ruler and using it to measure myself, I don’t think that’s a good thing to do.”