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HOPE encourages de-stressing in Greek community

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November 2, 2015

5:44 PM

Last week the College of William and Mary Greek community and HOPE met to address stress pertaining to Greek life. The event took place in Washington 201 Tuesday night and was open to all members of Greek life and HOPE. The interactive presentation was given by members of HOPE’s mental health branch, Hannah Basl ’17 and Ian Kinney ’17, both of whom are involved with Greek life as well.

The presentation began by addressing sources of stress that affect all students at the College, including alcohol, extracurricular commitments and academics, and the ways in which being a member of a Greek organization can make these stress factors more prevalent.  This prevalence was demonstrated through a text-in poll regarding how often students attending the event have felt stress due to Greek life. Of the attendees, 28 percent reported feeling stress “often” in Greek life.

Vice President of Scholarship on the Panhellenic Executive Council Emma Craige ’16 said in an email that Greek membership can be prominently associated with stress.

“A prime example of this, in my opinion, is the ‘stress chain’ talked about in the presentation; oftentimes members will prioritize Greek obligations over academic obligations in their natural enthusiasm for their chapter, but this can lead to poor performance in class, which creates academic stress which in turn can create stress in one’s Greek organization,” Craige said.

Basl and Kinney presented specific ways to reduce stress, both in the moment and through overall lifestyle changes. For reducing stress in the moment, they emphasized the importance of taking time for oneself, suggesting taking a yoga break, napping or talking with friends. In the long-term, they recommended getting eight hours of sleep each night, exercising regularly, implementing organizational techniques and asking for help as ways to reduce stress.

Craige said she believes finding time to focus on oneself and building a supportive community are two of the presentations’ most important messages.

“I think one of the most prescient might be to view self-care as a necessity, not a luxury, and to schedule 30 minutes out of a busy day to do what makes you happy,” Craige said in an email. “Another would be to find a ‘community within your Greek community’; those people you can trust to watch out for you and vice versa in all aspects of mental health and safety. Greek life is such a great opportunity to make lifelong friends; these are the people that can be your biggest support system during your time on campus and beyond.”

Vice President of Programming on Panhellenic Executive Council Ally Phillips ’16 said that it is important to create a supportive environment rather a competitive one in order to foster stress reduction.

“The presenters, Ian and Hannah, also talked about supporting each other instead of buying into the culture of who can suffer the most while studying, which I found to be a poignant example of a way to reduce to our stress,” Phillips said in an email.

President of the Mental Health branch of HOPE Thomas Le ’17 worked with Basl and Kinney on writing the presentation.

“Stress is something that affects everyone,” Le said. “We first looked at different ways to cope with stress within oneself, as well as different ways to reach out to other people who we might think are experiencing stress.”

Annie Brinkley ’19, who attended the presentation and is a new member in a sorority, said she agreed that learning how to approach others’ stress is beneficial.

“Knowing how to not only make sure I’m not taking on those problems as my own burdens but finding better ways to relieve them of theirs was definitely helpful,” Brinkley said.

Brinkley also said she appreciated the interactive nature of the event. Along with the text-in poll, the presentation also included numerous discussion questions. These allowed attendees to speak in small groups to evaluate personal sources of stress and develop methods to alleviate some of those stressors.

Last year Katharine Sucher ’15, a member of both HOPE’s Mental Health branch and a social sorority on campus, wrote a presentation for her sorority on de-stressing. Le, Basl and Kinney took that presentation and adapted it to focus on Greek life overall. HOPE has also given a similar presentation to other campus organizations, as well as during freshman orientation.

Craige said that she encourages all individual chapters to schedule a joint presentation with HOPE so that these valuable de-stressing techniques will reach a wider audience.

Finally, Le emphasized the importance of confronting stress in order to reduce it.

“I think the main message is that stress is not just a William and Mary student phenomenon, it’s a human phenomenon,” Le said. “I think accepting and recognizing our stress allows us to then practice behaviors or seek the help we need to overcome it.”

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  • Katie Koontz