The past few weeks have taken an emotional toll on many Yale students, with turmoil both on campus and nationally.
In response, campus wellness resources have stepped up their support. The Peer Wellness Champions, a group of nine undergraduates and five graduate and professional students, have centered their efforts on sleep and self-care.
“I’ve definitely noticed increases in stress and anxiety within the student population over the past few weeks,” said Michael Berry ’17 who is a peer wellness champion and also serves on the board of Mind Matters, Yale’s only student-led mental health advocacy group. He also serves on the Student Advisory Board to Mental Health and Counseling at Yale.
Berry has attributed the increase in anxiety to academic pressures such as midterms, extracurricular commitments and recent events that have rocked the campus.
Of the 12 students surveyed by the News, all said that they have noticed an increase in their anxiety levels since the end of fall break.
“I think it’s gotten more stressful since October break,” Valentina Wakeman ’20 said. “I haven’t been able to really relax since.” Wakeman has attributed her stress to mainly work-related pressure.
Tre Moore ’19 said the increase in pressure “is a mutual state amongst many students as midterms wind down, grades come out and finals begin to draw nearer.”
Besides academic stressors, Moore and others interviewed said they have also been distracted by recent events such as the election of Donald Trump.
In order to teach students how to deal with stress and lead healthier lives, the Peer Wellness Champions plan programs and events that raise awareness about specific issues effecting stress and students’ health.
This semester, the Peer Wellness Champions have focused on the lack of sleep among students. The group placed sleep charts and posters outside dining halls where students are encouraged to jot down the amount of sleep they get each night. This helps to dispel misconceptions about the right amount of sleep for college students and the amount of sleep their peers are getting, Berry said.
“Given that insufficient sleep is a known risk factor for developing problems with chronic stress, we believe that this problem is a significant one for students,” Berry said.
Students interviewed who have experienced increases in anxiety have tried to secure more hours of rest in hopes of having more productive and less drawn-out days, as fatigue tends to lead to more stress.
Last Friday, the Peer Wellness Champions hosted an event in Berkeley College featuring Emma Seppälä ’99, co-director of the Yale College Emotional Intelligence Project at the Center for Emotional Intelligence. About a dozen students attended the talk by Seppala, who has spent her life studying how people can achieve success without suffering a burnout. Seppala led a discussion on how to succeed in Yale’s competitive environment without making significant health-related sacrifices.
“We will all face life’s stressors. There’s not much we can do about that,” Seppala said in her April TEDx talk on controlling happiness and dealing with stress, adding that we can still control “the state of our mind.”
While many students seek help from Yale organizations and programs such as the Mental Health and Counseling department, the Peer Wellness Champions and the cultural centers, other seek solace by taking time out of their busy lives for themselves.
“I enjoy attending Yale sporting events,” Maddie Smith ’20 said. “The joy I receive from attending them helps to release stress.”
Some students enjoy one hour of exercise each morning to reduce stress while others put time aside to watch an occasional Netflix show.
Moore said he dealt with stress by spending more time with friends and reaching out to advisors to organize his academic plans.
The Yale Mental Health and Counseling department’s phone number is 203-432-0290.