Each year, students at the University look forward to spring as a relief from the bitter Michigan winter. But as sunny days become more common, spring harshly welcomes us with research papers, exams, projects and presentations. Excitement for spring is often short-lived as April also marks the madness known as finals season. Although stress is an inescapable part of the college experience, the culmination of a semester is no excuse for students to engage in unhealthy habits.

Overwhelmed students often resort to poor choices like caffeine addiction, sleepless nights and other tactics when dealing with stress rather than seeking healthy ways to relieve the tension of finals. Though it holds true that every college student has their own way to deal with the pressure, stress becomes a problem when it prevents them from maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

In addition to maintaining a perfect GPA, many of us are balancing jobs or leadership positions in student organizations, applying for summer internships and trying to preserve our social lives. These commitments cause many of us to be constantly stressed throughout the school year. And as finals season rears its ugly head, student stress reaches dangerous levels. According to a Counseling and Psychological Services (more commonly referred to as CAPS) College Student Mental Health Survey conducted in 2006, 30 percent of a sample of 2,358 students sought counseling services. This survey gives insight into the current campus attitudes toward stress and the lack of resources available to us. So then the question becomes, how much higher would this percentage be if support and counseling were better advertised? Universities need to promote more outlets where students can express themselves without the heavy hand of stress hindering their thought processes.

Severe stress is an unspoken issue at the University. While the University ensures the physical safety of its students via Department of Public Safety e-mails and texts, an office like CAPS is a severely under-utilized resource, indicating that most students either choose to deal with stress on their own or are unaware of this support. For incoming freshmen, the importance of DPS and University Health Service is emphasized. For example, posted safety alerts and health fact sheets are in every residence hall. DPS e-mails are made available to every University-affiliated person. While a few resident advisors may post information about CAPS and other support, stress relief often becomes the responsibility of the student.

During Festifall, we all get student handbooks that no one really reads, which is another demonstration of CAPS’s invisibility. Somewhere in there, CAPS is probably listed, but no one looks for this resource. Again, the University — and perhaps CAPS itself — should make CAPS and it programs more visible. The University needs to educate its students about stress and de-stigmatize psychological counseling. Instead of viewing counseling as some type of beneficial aid, as it should be, most students see it as a crutch that holds them back emotionally and socially. Oftentimes, talking with our peers about counseling can be received with apathy, surprise and discomfort. We need to abandon these attitudes; chronic stress needs to be more aggressively and compassionately addressed by the administration, faculty, peers and ourselves.

While CAPS is certainly a great campus resource, most of us also overlook the power that certain student-organized events can have on our well-being. Like that arts and crafts event in the Union. Or that film screening in Angell Hall. Unfortunately, the arts are often overlooked as stress relievers. Yet, art takes on many different forms, and because of this, can appeal to all of us. Since most student events revolve around dialogue, film screenings and cultural shows, there are an array of free, unconventional and fun activities that can help us relax.

One event designed to relieve stress is a Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success (F.O.K.U.S.), presentation of {Vanguards} — a community-wide block party and music festival celebrating the end of another hectic school year and the glorious arrival of summer. Scheduled from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Apr. 17 on the Diag, {Vanguards} will combine live musical performances from nationally recognized artists as well as student and local performers. Additionally, schoolyard games of years past like double dutch, hula hoop and hackeysack will take place, as well as the creation of a community mural to give students a safe, fun and unique way to take a study break from finals.

Bryan Davila is the vice president of F.O.K.U.S. and Felix Lopez and Nina Nwachukwu are CORE members of F.O.K.U.S.

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