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Helping Students Deal with Stress and Anxiety

March 19, 2014 / By Lara McCormick

Students seem to be always stressed out. Tight deadlines, poor time management, balancing school and life, taking too much on. As an educator I may be on the other side of the fence, but I can totally relate.

When I lived in the Bay Area, I took an anxiety and stress reduction workshop. It was a six-week course; every week we would talk about strategies for managing anxiety. One tip was to create a coping statement by writing down your fear, then turning it into something positive. ‘I can’t do this’ becomes ‘I can do this, I am doing it now’. Workshop attendees created a personal coping statement depending on their source of stress. It was suggested to write it on a piece of paper to keep in your pocket or wallet to pull out in time of need. Because I’m a designer, I typeset the statements, printed and laminated them, and handed them out to everyone in the class. People were so thankful and found it helpful to have eachother’s coping statements. It was a great take-home from the workshop.

This is the time in the semester when students start to make appointments to see me and often end up talking about their anxiety. I thought it would be perfect to have individual cards of the coping statements, that I could distribute as needed. The cards are content-driven, so the design is subtle. I printed them through MOO using their MiniCard format with rounded corners. One side remains constant (and reads ‘breathe’), the other sides have coping statements (there are twenty variations total). I wanted the cards to be anonymous, so there is no contact info. If you find one lying on a table, you have no idea where it came from.

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As soon as the cards arrived, I put them on my desk with the coping statements facing up. Students are constantly in and out of my office, and everyone that came in that day looked at the cards and asked if they could have one. It was very telling to see which people picked which card. Because students often feel stressed and under pressure, the cards really resonate with them. I’m getting requests from students for the cards just about every day.

In our campus senior studio space, the cards are strewn about everywhere. I leave them in spots around campus and instagram them (#dailyreminders), and encourage students to do the same. The cards are for sharing and interacting with, not to be kept in a box.

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I have a colleague who starts class off with a guided meditation. I’m enjoying having printed statements to give students. I also remind them to sleep and eat. How do you help students to cope with stress and anxiety?

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Lara McCormick is currently the chair of graphic design at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, and a member of the AIGA design educators steering committee.

Photo Credits: MOO

COMMENTS
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  • http://www.peterbella.com Pete Bella

    This is a great concept and wonderful strategy!

  • Laura

    I could definitely have used this during the end of my portfolio class, senior year. I didn’t know what was wrong with me! Stress is so nasty. This is a great concept and executed wonderfully.

  • Susan Mango Curtis

    Typically throughout the quarter students stroll into my office, close the door and breakdown. Our students are under tremendous pressure, have a open door policy and be willing to listen. Faculty must also be compassionate, you never know, you might save someone’s life. Stress kills!