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  • 5 Tips for Stress Relief

5 Tips for Stress Relief

A big project or the beginning of the semester may have you looking for some stress relief tactics. Here’s some expert advice on how to relieve stress.
Story by Joel Mathis

Feeling stressed about that big project? The best way to start to feel better is to simply get started.

That’s the advice from Alexander Williams, Ph.D., director of the KU Edwards Campus Psychological Clinic (KUEC-PC), which supports students at the KU Edwards Campus (KUEC) in Overland Park. KUEC students tend to be nontraditional – most work at least 30 hours a week, more than half are married and many have children – and they share the same stressors as other students and working professionals: worries about workloads, time management and more.

One way to tackle these worries? Get to work, Williams says.

"I think my biggest general piece of advice is to start,” he says. “A lot of times, as you work on a project, it'll go quicker. It's better to have eight mediocre pages than nothing."

Some other tips from Williams for stress relief:

Break big tasks into smaller ones
Have a big paper? Take your eyes off the big picture, and instead outline each step you’ll need to take along the way – a day to research, a day to consult with your instructor, a day to write and so on. What looks like a giant mountain can often be smoothed into a series of easier-to-manage plateaus. ​"If you start to break it down,” Williams says, “what may seem like an insurmountable task may be more doable."

Use a schedule
Once tasks are broken into smaller steps, Williams says, find time on your schedule to accomplish those steps, and keep that time free from other obligations. ​"The more we can schedule that, the better,” he says. “And if we need incentives, rewarding ourselves when we complete a task can be good."

But schedule smartly
"If you know you do your best work between 1 and 4 p.m., you should save your hardest work for that time,” Williams says, “and save relatively mindless stuff for another time."

Start slowly
Starting a project with the simplest, easiest tasks can help you build momentum to take on the bigger, more difficult items later. ​"You begin to do something instead of being paralyzed by too much,” Williams said.

KUEC student support for stress relief
The KUEC-PC is just one service providing stress relief KU Edwards Campus offers overwhelmed students. The school’s Welcome Center can also put students in contact with coaches for time management and study skills, and help in building a course schedule, accommodating students’ professional and personal commitments. The center also has resources to help students address substance abuse issues, family problems, and more.

“KU Edwards takes great pride in offering our transfer and graduate students personalized service in 1-to-1 settings for optimal student success,” says Misty Chandler, KUEC’s director of student services. “We provide time management and stress personal coaching sessions and workshops in addition to counseling services focused on the stress, anxiety and time demands of our busy students. For students who prefer help online, students have access to career and student success coaches online for additional support.”

The services are designed to meet the needs of KUEC’s nontraditional student population. Fifty-five percent of students are married or have a domestic partner; a third have children high school age or younger; more than 37 percent work more than 40 hours a week – and another 25 percent work at least 30 hours a week. All those competing priorities can take a toll on one’s scholarly efforts.

"We have students that have ‘real-life’ problems, says Jessica Watson, student services program assistant at KUEC. “Our services are tailored for them – we're open until 7 p.m., because that's when they're here."

Just as Williams suggests students simply “get started” on big projects to keep them from being overwhelmed, Watson says students should seek assistance at the Welcome Center at the first sign they need help. Don’t wait, she says.

"It's important to reach out as the water's rising, before you're drowning,” she says. “It's easier to help you when the water's rising."

Learn more about the KU Edwards Campus Psychological Clinic and other available student support services.