Art, exercise, and human development Students achieve stress relief through balance

As they tackle education and adulthood simultaneously, students are finding themselves overwhelmed and spread a little too thin. The American College Health Association claims that depression rates in college students have been on the rise the past several years, with studies from researchers such as Hunt and Eisenberg showing that many other mental health disorders are also rising in number and severity.

Why is this the case? Well, UCC students are attempting to balance classes, work, personal relationships, family life and leisure time all while learning how to “adult” well. These copious responsibilities require students to develop a high stress tolerance. To that end, spring term offers an abundance of classes many consider to be stress relieving rather than stress inducing.

For students feeling the stress of indecisiveness, Trio adviser and instructor Les Rogers suggest human development courses this spring. These courses teach students the skill set necessary for success, how to handle their course load, and how to enter the work force after graduation. The Career-Life Planning course (HD 208) could even provide insight into some personal attributes that could apply to career options students never previously considered.

Additional human development courses being offered spring term include College Success (HD 100), Strategies for Success (HD 136), Practicing Success (HD 107), and Career Planning (HD 110).

To help with the transition from a physically active high school lifestyle to a workload intensive college lifestyle, Rogers recommends exercise. According to the Surgeon General, individuals who exercise show lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Rogers maintained high stress tolerance when he was a student by working out in his spare time. “I was able to run 10 miles at a time. I also was exposed to yoga at the community college level and just continued to do it.” Many college students argue that with their time spread so thin, they simply cannot find the time to exercise. However, students can make exercise part of the weekly routine.

Kaitlyn Glass, an art major, first registered for UCC’s yoga class following the school shooting incident Oct. 1, 2015, hoping to improve herself and calm her PTSD. She quickly fell in love with yoga and has been taking it almost every term since. At first timid to join the class due to her own insecurities, Glass praises Debbie Brodun’s teaching style. “She pushes students to be better for themselves but doesn’t push them to where they feel bad about themselves.”

If yoga doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are many other exciting physical education courses being offered spring term, such as white-water rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, obstacle course racing and self-defense. Many of these classes are offered at the beginner and advanced level. A self-defense class can be an outlet for stress and anger. Some students say it has provided a confidence boost. Basketball and volleyball strategy courses, basic strengthening and swimming courses are also available this spring term. Rogers encourages students to take advantage of UCC’s facilities: “We have a beautiful campus, lots of space to run, even an obstacle course team! Take a chance, go out there, and give it a shot!”

Another option to consider here at UCC is art. Art therapy has gained popularity in mainstream psychology at addressing issues of stress, anxiety and depression. In her study of the use of art therapy at college counseling centers, Sandra S. Vazquez found six sources supporting the concept that art therapy can “support the process of self-awareness, increase insight, and encourage self-expression through the use of creativity.”

Susan Rochester, UCC art department chair, makes it clear that art classes are quite different from art therapy—they don’t follow a treatment plan for a particular mental disorder, yet they can still be incredibly therapeutic for artists of all levels. She compares time in an art class to art time as a child: “It recaptures that feeling of being totally in the moment with only what’s in front of you.” Any art class can give you this opportunity for relaxed concentration.

Rochester is certified in art journaling as a therapeutic art and encourages students to value the process of art rather than focusing on the end project. “If one is focused on the end product they miss a lot of the benefits of just engaging in the process of art making.”

Some of these benefits include the growth of neural pathways between different areas of the brain and enhanced visual literacy, making an art class a great supplement to other courses. A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows medical students to make faster and more accurate diagnoses while concurrently taking an art class.

As an art major, Glass explores the various art classes offered at UCC, yet she continually turns to Ceramics. “It is my outlet class. I usually take 18-19 credits a term, so it helps me to get through.”

Glass says she has always considered herself artistic, but beginners should not be discouraged from joining Ceramics. Instructor Greg Price teaches Ceramic Handbuilding (ART 255) and has a very structured teaching style focusing on progress, while Ted Isto who also teaches Ceramics (ART 252) allows students more free range.

Ceramic Handbuilding Instructor Greg Price assists student Bonny Bartley with her ceramics project.

Other art classes being offered this term include Basic Design (ART 117—great for students who have an interest in architecture, design or love hands on projects), Figure Drawing (ART 234) and Sculpture (ART 293). If anyone is looking to get a taste of art therapy before registering for spring term, the Queer Students Advocacy group is holding an art therapy meeting Feb. 27 open to all community members and students.

Opportunities like this create habits that maintain high stress tolerance could be achievable for students who take advantage of their resources. Registration for spring term opens up to students with 45 or more earned credits on Feb. 26, 30 or more on Mar. 1, 15 or more on Mar. 5, one or more on Mar. 8, and open registration following Mar. 12.

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