Regaining Control: Dalton State Program Helps Students Cope with Stress
December 10, 2014
When Kemara Johnson starts feeling the pressures of nursing school, she knows there’s one place she can go to regain control.
The junior at Dalton State settles into a recliner in a small room. With just the glow of a lamp and a computer screen, Johnson begins to relax.
She uses the emWave, which is a training system that monitors a person’s heart rhythms and is designed to help lower stress levels.
“It displays the physiological level of coherence — an optimal state in which the heart, mind and emotions are operating in sync and in balance, and the immune, hormonal and nervous systems function in a state of harmonious coordination,” said Travis McKie-Voerste, coordinator of the College’s Counseling and Career Services. “A room is set up in the Roberts Library for faculty, staff, or students to use this system that can help lower anxiety and improve control over mood regulation.”
The system uses games to help a person lower stress.
“In one you use a breathing method to create a rainbow,” Johnson said. “Another uses your breath to lift a balloon. You have to sit there and relax. It calms me down, and it helps me feel relaxed for the rest of the day. I’m in control again.”
Anytime Johnson has a nursing exam, she uses the program to help her focus and let go of the stress.
With students feeling normal pressures of college life, exams, projects, research plus outside stress, such as work and family, it’s important to give them a way to relax and coping tools they can take with them, McKie-Voerste said.
“I think students will be surprised to find, as I did, that emWave is not only relaxing, but fun,” said Linda Wheeler, director of academic resources at the College. “There is one activity where as you relax, a rainbow appears and a pot of gold fills with money, and then coins spill over the pot’s lid. It’s interesting because the activity feels like a competition, but you compete with your own stress; it feels good to triumph over tension.
The program teaches students to accept the stress that higher education can bring, while addressing it and controlling it, Wheeler said.
“Rather than feeling anxious when entering a classroom for an exam, a student who is utilizing the program can walk in knowing that they have taken steps toward the relief of that anxiety,” she said. “The program can be a positive experience with very positive results.”
McKie-Voerste works with students who are facing any personal issue that may be interfering with the academic process or personal pursuits. He often works with students to help them adjust to college life. Since many of Dalton State’s students are first-generation college students, they often need help learning how to navigate life in college.
He also sees students to help them manage relationships, personal and family problems, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.