Tests, class projects and work schedule tensions are building and students could turn to alcohol as a way to blow off steam and/or get some rest.

Girl looking sad“Many people feel like alcohol is lowering their stress levels in the short term,” says Craig Rooney, PhD, MU Student Health Center psychologist and Behavioral Health Services director. “But it heightens the risk for many different negative outcomes that can be much more stressful or dangerous in the long run.”

Susan Even, MD, MU Student Health Center medical provider and executive director, knows studies show that alcohol is a depressant and an indirect stimulant. “Alcohol can have both dramatic and subtle effects on thought processes, behavior and emotions,” she says.

Rooney works with students so they understand how alcohol affects those things that are important to them – such as relationships, GPA and sleep. And after talking about alcohol’s effects on their lives, if a student wants to change their drinking pattern the two of them start talking about realistic goals to make it happen.

“If students are at a place where they are ready to make a change, we talk about what coping strategies and social support they have in place,” he says. “We tailor the strategies to where they are. We prepare for change, talk about what change looks like and develop strategies focused on the end result. And, we can also determine if a higher level of care is recommended.”

The Health Center offers drop-in meditation and yoga classes during the week, which have been shown to help with stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, there are behavioral health groups such as Peace of Mind and Anxiety Workshops that help students fill their toolbox with resources, tips and practices. Both behavioral health and medical providers recommend these coping strategies for stress – exercising, eating nutritious foods and getting restful sleep. “These strategies focus on solving the top factors that interfere with academic success,” says Andrea Kimura, MEd, certified wellness and health coach at the Health Center. “Our professional staff work with students individually on sleep, nutrition, fitness and stress management strategies in addition to classes and programs.”

You can also check out the mindfulness-based audios and videos.