HawkReach helps students stay happy
TNE Editor
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HawkReach helps students stay happy

Published 11/30/18

Ebba Moberg

TNE Writer

Staying on top of homework and assignments along with performing well in extracurricular activities can be stressful for any student. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression which typically arises during the dark days of the year. It is estimated to affect 10 million Americans and can certainly make school or work difficult if left untreated.

“For NSU, my experience is that SAD is not as prevalent,” said Braden Cary, Broken Arrow Student Services counselor. “Typically, students’ depression patterns are unique in that things like exams and/or financial aid dates structure them. With that being said, students with SAD do experience more severity especially when living on campus. Being away from family and ease of isolation on campus are exacerbating factors for SAD.”   

Not all students get depressed during the fall and winter season. However, many tend to rely on caffeine to stay awake as they go through their days or as they spend late nights cramming for tests. What many students do not know is that caffeine is addicting and can cause withdrawal symptoms if the intake is stopped.

“Caffeine is a stimulant like amphetamines or cocaine,” said Cary. “It is clearly more socially acceptable, and arguably less damaging, than meth. However, caffeine will cause an excitatory response to the body and if you have clinical anxiety or depression your brain interprets all excitatory responses as bad i.e., fear. Caffeine can also decrease drowsiness so that could counteract unhappiness. Therefore, a lot is dependent on how you interpret and use the stimulant.”

As observed by Cary, students seems to be affected more by their academic calendar rather than the amount of daylight they get between November and March. However, one in four Americans are diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at least once in their lifetime. Symptoms of SAD may include social isolation, irritability, loss of interest and changes to sleep and appetite.

“The period between Thanksgiving and finals are among the most stressful in the collegiate calendar,” said Dr. Mary Waters-Bilbo, Counseling & Psychology associate professor. “Students are balancing the stress of finals, papers and projects. Students need to get regular rest, eat nutritionally and get exercise to maintain stress levels and a sense of equilibrium. This may sound impossible at such a busy time, but these routines are even more important during times of stress.”

Some things students can do to stay happy include staying involved both on and off campus, being organized, having a weekly schedule and setting goals. It can be beneficial to do activities after it gets dark so the body can adjust to the time change. If a student is consciously trying to apply these routines to their everyday life but still feel unhappy, they can visit HawkReach and get help.

“Our mission as a mental health center is to help students succeed,” said Renee Valcarcel-Wilson, HawkReach counselor. “Success as a student means so much more than just making good grades. Work, relationships, stress, adjusting to college life and so many other factors can challenge us and at times make success more difficult. In these times of need, HawkReach counseling services can help.”

Something considered equally important to self-care is taking care of friends and loved ones. If friends notice changes in peer behaviors, such as loss of interest in activities which they previously enjoyed, or any other habit changes typical to SAD, it can help to be encouraging, but not confrontational.

“Calling someone out is most likely going to make a friend feel upset with themselves,” said Cary. “It is better to create opportunities such as going out to eat or staying over to watch a movie. These can keep a person feeling engaged and lets them know they have people around. However, if your friend starts pushing you away, becomes self-harming, or talks in terms of not wanting to live a more heavy-handed approach is good. Have them come in and talk to one of our counselors.”

HawkReach offers weekly therapy for students in depressed or agitated moods during the winter. They work on getting clients more control in their life and can help encourage better daily scheduling, sleep habits and social skills. HawkReach is is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday in the Leoser Complex on the Tahlequah campus. For more information about HawkReach and their services, email them at hawkreach@nsuok.edu or call 918-444-2042.


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