Faculty and staff can promote a healthy campus culture and help students embrace self-care and wellness in their everyday lives. Below are some core messages that may help students learn how to handle stress and live a balanced life.
1. It’s ok to take breaks.
As one student noted, “At Yale, we are surrounded by individuals who are the best in their fields, and we consider them our role models. But they never take breaks. So we don’t either.” Students only interact with their professors while they’re working and therefore don’t often see them take breaks. To show how you maintain a balance in your own life, you might consider making time for a quick walk outside, a cup of coffee with a colleague, or a chat with a student after class. You might consider making yourself visible at campus activities or showing your students that you spend time on things beyond work, such as family or hobbies. If you are willing, talk about how you’ve found ways throughout your career to maintain a balance between your work life and personal life.
2. No one can be good at everything.
Students often feel that they need to be “effortlessly excellent”—to excel at all the things they do, whether for work or for pleasure. Let them know that success does not come from being a leader in every single area or facet of life but from learning and developing their own unique strengths and passions.
3. It’s ok to fail sometimes.
Some students come to Yale never having experienced a significant personal or academic failure. When they do stumble upon a roadblock or are unsuccessful in some way, they see it as a sign of personal weakness. To help students come to terms with accepting failure, you can be vocal about areas of your work that haven’t always gone according to plan and how you dealt with those situations. Sharing personal anecdotes or stories from your profession can be great and engaging examples and can show students that there is value in choosing to learn from failure.
4. Self-care is an important and valuable skill to learn.
Students consider their advisors, professors, heads of college, deans, department chairs, and directors to be models of success. Your students notice and absorb the things you emphasize in your lives, both inside and outside of the classroom and lab. Consider modeling behavior that emphasizes balance between different aspects of your life.
Many faculty and staff members have regularly occurring interactions with students and may notice when a student is showing signs of mental health concerns. Though it is not unusual for students to display signs of stress, there may be indications that a student is experiencing more than the worries and anxieties of everyday life. Some of these signs may include:¹
- Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- Drastic changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Neglect of personal hygiene
- Difficulty maintaining focus
- Extreme anxiety
- Sudden and significant changes in personality, mood, or behavior
- Withdrawal from routine activities and relationships
- Sudden lack in motivation
- Serious changes in quality of work
- Sudden and repeated absences from class, lab, or meetings
Depending on the relationship, you may consider inviting the student to talk. You might also refer the student to resources available on campus, emphasizing that seeking help and wanting help takes courage and is a sign of strength.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking one-on-one, contact the student’s residential college dean or dean of student affairs, who, in collaboration with Mental Health and Counseling, can provide guidance.
Handling a Crisis Situation
If you feel that a student poses an immediate threat or danger to himself or others, call Mental Health and Counseling or 911 immediately. Do not leave the student alone.
1. “How to help in an emotional crisis,” American Psychological Association, http://apa.org/helpcenter/emotional-crisis.aspx.