With finals approaching, what we are told to focus on is our academics. Study for the rest of our exams, polish our final papers, review 100s of pages of reading—it’s the rhetoric that comes full force in the last few weeks of school. But while finals are inevitable, incidents like the loss of a fellow student, the lack of indictment in the Brown and Garner case, and the ensuing emotional and mental turmoil that have accompanied these incidents were not predictable.
At some schools where students have passed away, campus officials are offering extended counseling services and community gathering spaces. In the wake of the lack of indictment and the high emotions that many students are feeling, at least one institution, Columbia Law School, is offering to allow students who do not feel at their best level emotionally and mentally to elect to postphone their final exams. At other institutions, like at the small liberal arts college Oberlin in Ohio, some students are sending emails to professors urging them to allow distraught students the option to petition to postpone their finals.
Here are some suggestions to help cope with these events and how to help support others in your campus community who may be feeling especially stressed in these times.
1)Realize that your feelings are valid regardless of whether you knew the person or not. A common sentiment held by people is a feeling that they shouldn’t be upset because they “weren’t close” to the person who passed away or to a particular person who has lost their life due to police brutality. Everyone experiences emotions differently and the loss of a person on campus can trigger a variety of feelings, regardless whether the person was three dorm rooms down, or someone who you had never met before.
2)Don’t hesitate to reach out to your counseling services on campus. For some students, events like these can trigger feelings of grief and helplessness. For people who have struggled with mental illness in the past, hearing about events like these can trigger anxiety and depression to spike, and can even trigger suicidal feelings. Although it may seem daunting, if you feel that you may need someone to talk to, or that you are experiencing feelings like this, your college’s counseling center exists to serve you.
3)Actively check in with your friends.
If you are well, please make an effort to check in with your fellow friends on campus. More so, be aware of your friends who have struggled with mental illness, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or suicidal thoughts in the past. Again, for students who have histories with mental illness, hearing about the loss of fellow student can trigger anxiety to spike, depression to deepen, and feelings of hopelessness to worsen. Be proactive with your friends and let them know that you’re there.
4)Use social media as a way to offer a listening ear.
Facebook and Twitter are basically the new campus bulletin boards. You can use them to offer a listening ear to the people you know on campus. Let people know that you’re available to lend a listening ear or to even just walk someone over to the counseling office.
5)Use social media to find safe spaces to talk about your feelings.
Many student organizations have been sponsoring “safe space” discussions and study breaks for people seeking a community to process the events that have happened. Student organizations oriented around marginalized identities, such as that for LGBTQ people, first-generation college students, students of color, and low-income students especially have been proactive on many college campuses in offering these spaces.
6)Don’t “read the comments.”
We hear this A LOT. Everyone tell us this. “Don’t read the comments,” they say. “Don’t argue,” they say. But we seldom listen, and often instead engage in moot arguments with racists, trolls, and speculators alike. Reading the comments is the one of the easiest ways to ruin your day. Take care of yourself instead.
According to CityLab writer Kriston Capps, people in America in the “past weeks have seen the largest number of Americans taking to the streets since the Occupy and Iraq War protests.” While it is incredibly important to honor the memory of those who’ve passed, it is crucial to find healthy outlets for your feelings and a sense of community with those it affects to cope. Do not hesitate to confide in loved ones and to take advantage of the resources provided by your school to help manage your feelings.
With finals fast approaching, don’t neglect your feelings and mental health in order to prioritize your academics. While it may seem like a good strategy in the beginning, it’s better to take time for yourself before your feelings snowball.