Attend for free: Relaxation and Coping Skills Group

Patrick Stein, Staff Writer

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“The mind is the source of all suffering, and it is also the source of all happiness.” This quote by Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist, paints a vivid picture about what our mind is capable of. However, many students find it difficult to eliminate stress and maintain only happiness.
A potential solution: there is a Relaxation and Coping Skills Group that is free for students to attend here on campus. It’s available on Tuesdays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in room KSC 1000B. It is hosted by the kind and knowledgeable David Messer, a Psychologist and counselor.
Messer’s first bit of advice was, “Start off by assessing your life situation. Close your eyes, or leave them open if you’d like.” The goal of this exercise is to help clear the mind and get in tune with the body. It leads into identifying stressors, such as homework assignments, and symptoms of stress, such as an accelerated heart beat.

Managing relationships is the most common stressor that Messer mentioned. “Relationships are a big thing that cause people stress. Probably the biggest.” He is willing to lend an ear and formulate steps to resolve issues if you seek advice.
After identifying stressors, Messer asked how the attendee’s manage their stress. He gave the advice of exercising, and mentioned that a study showed that people that are walking, even on a treadmill, have slightly increased problem-solving skills.
On the topic of problem solving, Messer identified three coping mechanisms for stress. There’s problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping and avoidance coping, ranging from most useful to least useful, respectively.
“If there is a particular thing stressing me out, I try to solve it… Otherwise my brain will keep working,” said Messer. The example he gave for this one is finance related. He was fretting about how he will manage his money, so he solved the problem by creating a budget. This put his mind at ease.

Emotion-focused coping involves distracting the mind with things that make us happy. Messer said, “When our brain perceives a threat, our body wants us to relieve it by distracting ourselves or avoiding it.” Things like food, shopping, and television come to mind as common distractions. They can be a great temporary fix to stress, but don’t solve the problem outright.
The last coping mechanism is avoidance, which Messer identified as the least helpful. “It works well in one scenario, like things that will pass.” He gave the example of a friend that you constantly butt heads with visiting from out of town. Eventually the friend will leave, and you don’t have to sever the friendship.
When asked what other tips he has for relieving stress, Messer said, “Talking is the most helpful thing.” He recommends carving a chunk of time out of the day to communicate with psychologists, such as himself, a friend or loved one about personal problems, and attempt to solve them.
I highly recommend attending this group. In the brief time I was there, I received insight that will stick with me regarding human interaction. Don’t let your problems fester. Formulate your problems into words to obtain peace of mind.

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