The “S” word by Kelly Carpick, Academic Advisor at UWPACE

The “S” word…

The word student seems to be synonymous with the word stress. Life as a post-secondary student, contrary to what some may think, is not easy. Being a student comes with its own unique stressors and challenges, including managing deadlines and time, worrying about grades, relationships, finances, work schedules, bus schedules, instructors and the list goes on and on…. Over my many years as a student, I realized that in order to be succeed academically, I needed to take care of myself on many different levels, physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. Here are some strategies that helped me cope with the many stressors of being a post-secondary student:

Acknowledging & Taking Control of Your Stress (STOPP)

One of the most useful strategies I learned was to make time for myself, no matter how busy I am, and reflect on how I’m feeling, and where I am at mentally. Once I made the time to check in with myself when I felt overwhelmed, I recognized the power of my own negative thoughts.  I started to allow myself time to acknowledge these thoughts, and quickly take control of them by using a cognitive-behavioral technique, STOPP:

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S: STOP!  Just pause for a moment

T: Take a breath. Notice your breathing as you breathe in and out

O: Observe (What thoughts are going through your mind? Where  is your focus of attention? What are you reacting to? What sensations do you notice in your body?)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Image retrieved from P: Pull back & put in some perspective (What is the bigger picture? What is another way of looking at this situation? It will pass)

P: Practice what works (what is the best thing to do right now?)                                   

Allotting time to check-in with yourself, and recognize that the situation/event will pass, and that you are in full control over how you respond and react to this situation. For example, I remember feeling stressed about having to do my first presentation in University, worrying about what others will think if I slip up, or what the instructor will do in front of the class. After using the STOPP technique, I realized that I was able to control my stress and anxiety by focusing on my breathing and changing my perspective. I thought about the great learning opportunity, and how practice will help me overcome my fear of public speaking. Once I finished my presentation, I reflected on the situation, and how it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Next presentation, I felt prepared and confident.

Holistic Approach to Stress

Lastly, understanding how stress affects you can also help you manage your mental health more effectively. The stress cycle represents four separate components (Intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical) which are all influenced and impacted by your levels of stress.
When you are stressed…do you worry, engage in negative thinking, lack concentration and motivation, and find it hard to make sound judgments? (Intellectual)

When you are stressed… do you see your future as bleak, doubt your ability to succeed, feel as though life doesn’t have much meaning? (Spiritual)

When you are stressed…do you pull back from your friends & family? Lack confidence? Feel depressed? Feel alone and sad all of the time? (Emotional)

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Image retrieved from

When you are stressed… do you get headaches? Get sick more often? Feel tense and find it hard to breathe? Feel tired and sore? Do you eat more? Drink more? Smoke more? Yell more? (Physical)

It is important to notice changes in yourself relating to your thinking, emotions, spirituality and physical health when you are stressed, as the first step in managing your stress, is to acknowledge how it is affecting you.

Not all techniques work for everybody, and some techniques need practice. Don’t feel discouraged if a strategy that works for someone else does not work for you. Continue to try new techniques, and remember, being a student is not easy! You are not alone in your experiences, and reach out to a friend, classmate, instructor, staff member, family member or mental health professional if you need additional support.

Kelly Carpick, Academic Advisor for PACE Full-Time Programs

To download the STOPP App visit:

To view the STOPP video visit:





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