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  • Writer's pictureMason Edwards!

Stretched Thin: Yoga as Stress Relief

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Director of Campus Recreation Cindy Strine leads a yoga class at the Aquatics and Recreation Center. Thursday, November 17, 2022. Photo by Mason Edwards

Facing midterm exams, thousands of college students across the nation clenched their teeth. They filled in answer bubbles, typed research essays or assembled group projects, but despite the different types of work, stress may have made it painful-- like being squeezed.

The stress, when felt on a physical level, acts both like an unstoppable driving force and a crippling weight. One UTC sophomore, Isabell Pollard, described the exams as killer.

“I have the anxiety that comes with it, and I can’t get over it,” Pollard said. “I’ll study for weeks, and it still sucks.”

With so many other responsibilities to manage, chronically stressed people tend to damage their health. The American Psychological Association found that if people ignore stress for a long period of time, it can physically damage a person’s heart and blood vessels.

UTC’s counseling director and clinical psychologist, Keilan Rickard, Ph.D, sat in his office for an interview about student mental health. During stressful times when students need rest most, he’s observed students sabotage themselves by pulling all-nighters or skipping meals.

“Now is the time you really need to care about your body,” Rickard said. “Moving, not necessarily a full-on gym routine, but just something to get your body moving…” is a “…guard against mental illness.”

Many campuses host light activities, ranging from walking to yoga, to promote relaxation. When UTC’s Director of Campus Recreation, Cindy Strine, teaches yoga poses like the downward dog, she dims the lights and plays calming music.

“Yoga is a great place for stress; I found it to be the best stress relief out of everything that I’ve done,” Strine commented.

UTC junior Kaylee Daniel joined Strine’s class at the beginning of the Fall semester; she explained how stress constricts her mind and body.

“Stress is something that just brings me tension and not relief and just overwhelms me,” Daniel said. “Yoga helps me relax and relieve all that stress in my neck, my shoulders where I just build all that stress in…”

Even if they do take care of themselves, not every young adult comes to a college campus with the skills necessary to deal with stress, according to Rickard. With over a decade of experience working for universities, he explained that some students never get the opportunity to learn. Even though psychologists can detect and help treat stress, oftentimes, the individual needs to reach out for help first.

“It’s a question of constantly checking in with yourself, just like you go to a physician once a year to do a physical check-up,” he said. “If there’s been any change in someone’s normal behavior, then it could be a sign of stress.”

If a student needs help, many universities provide counseling services which assist with personal and academic issues, and they typically have websites or phone numbers students can reach out to. Anyone needing help—in college or not—can use the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator.

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