Mason hosted workshop highlighting the importance of self-care among students
BY MONICA ECHOLS, CULTURE EDITOR
College students usually have a lot on their plate—intense workloads, jobs, extracurricular activities, hanging with friends and making time for themselves. All of this can be difficult for students to balance and maintain their well-being. On Monday, Oct. 22, Dr. Al Fuertes, associate professor from Mason’s School of Integrative Studies, hosted a workshop called “Self Care: Why Is It Important for College Students?”
Fuertes started the workshop by asking attendees to turn their phones on silent, relax, sit comfortably and have a moment of silence to be conscious of their presence. He explained the importance of taking moments like this for students. “Having personal time, even for a couple of minutes, can be helpful,” Fuertes said.
Fuertes then described why self-care is important for college students. One reason is that students can neglect to take care of themselves if they prioritize their education over personal health. For example, students often decide to stay up late to do work and catch up on sleep later. He also said that self-care can prevent students from burning out. Fuertes said, “Burnout is one manifestation that we’ve given too much of ourselves to others and the world.”
How to recognize when you are experiencing stress is another topic Forman visited. When he asked students to raise their hands if they are experiencing stress at this point in the semester, almost everyone lifted a hand up.
Some of the signs that someone might be stressed include mood swings, loss of concentration, lack of appetite or an increase in appetite, being more tired than usual, chest pains or palpitations, and a rise in anxiety.
According to Fuertes, stress, anxiety and depression are some of the most common conditions that college students receive clinical care for. He explained that while some stress is normal, if stress continues for more than 30 days, it could be a medical issue or traumatization.
After Fuertes finished his lecture, students were divided into small groups led by graduate student co-facilitators and received a series of worksheets. The first worksheet asked students to identify the parts of the body where they hold the most stress. For one group, some of the most common places were the head, shoulders, upper chest and back.
The next worksheet asked students to check which of the common responses to stress and/or trauma apply to them. The responses were broken up into six categories, including emotional, cognitive (thinking), behavioral (doing), physical, spiritual and societal effects. The back of that worksheet provided suggestions on self-care for each category.
The final worksheet was a self-care assessment that asked students to rate how well they were doing in different areas of self-care, including physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, relationship and professional self-care.
At the end of the event, Fuertes explained the importance of not using busyness as an excuse to not take care of yourself. Although college students tend to be very busy, it is important for students to reframe their mindset into “I’m very busy, so I must find time [for self-care].”