C.C. reader. ([Middletown, Pa.]) 1973-1982, December 06, 1982, Image 5

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Burned out? Don't drop out
By Marsha Larsen
You know what it feels like.
Your fuses are sputtering out,
or sizzling to the point of explo
sion. You say you're "about to
blow," "wicked out," or
"burned out." School becomes
a pressure you just can't take
any more.
Are you burned out?
Counselor Ed Beck of the
Capitol Campus Counseling
Center says 'no,' the term is a
misnomer. "Burn-out implies a
different set of cir
cumstances—a career in which
someone is giving more than
receiving, like a social worker
or nurse who work in chronical
ly stressful situations with too
little compensation."
Burn-out takes time, much
longer than the school ex-
perience. Becks says burn-out
is a gradual wearing down of
idealism. Eventually, even the
"strokes" don't compensate for
this when it is coupled with the
stress inherent in the occupa
Professors burn out. Students
Dr. Marian Krieger, coor
dinator of Counseling Services,
says stress reaction is an ad-
justment first-termers at
Capitol Campus often feel. They
notice a dip in their grade point
average and wonder, "What's
going on? I did so well before I
transferred here." Accustomed
to a semester system, they find
terms short and intense. More
is expected of them in an upper
division school. "They must,"
Krieger says, "jump in and do
their work, relying principally
on themselves for motivation."
Stress reaction does not limit
its target to new students,
however. Beck and Krieger say
that married students, return
ing women and men may fall
prey as well. "A person must
juggle more according to the
number of roles he or she must
fulfill, and the more roles, the
more stress."
Dr. William Mahar, Assistant
Professor of Humanities and
Music, adds two - more
categories of stress. One is
peculiar to Capitol Campus; the
other, more universal—
Senior-itis may occur in a stu
dent's last term. "Seniors,"
Mahar says, "are so concerned
about their futures, they can't
concentrate on the present. It's
a transition period, a time of
having to cope with uncertainty
The stress distinctive of
Capitol Campus is one, Mahar
says, of basic identification.
"Penn State Capitol Campus is
not a readily identifiable con
versation opener, for one thing.
Capitol is not that well known in
the area, even though it has ex
isted since 1966. Capitol
represents an unknown quanti
ty, yet school image is very im
portant to students."
Dr. Mahar contends that pro
fessors can see tension in
students. "If you've learned to
read students' faces, you've
learned to recognize stress." He
adds, "Whether a teacher can
recognize stress depends upon
-whether he or she cares about
the job. Teaching is more than
getting information across."
Mahar cares, and he notices
things about his students, like
changes in their appearance.
Sometimes a student who is
normally well-kempt and
-dressed will look disheveled.
Snatches of conversation just
before and after class tip him
off, too. He can hear students
voice their concerns.
Mahar tries to read responses
to quizzes perceptively. He can
identify students who have
overprepared. They overwhelm
with information. "This kind of
compulsiveness can be in
dicative of stress," he says.
Dr. Sandra Prince-Embury,
Assistant Professor of
Psychology, agrees that testing
tells a tale. She notices that on
occasion around quiz time,
students will approach her and
offer information about
themselves. "Not so much to
make excuses," she says, "but
perhaps to place in context
their anticipated performance
on the exam." Some of her
students reveal personal infor
mation when they meet with
her to discuss their term pro
jects as well.
Dr. Prince-Embury observes
individual students absences as
a sign of stress. She notes this
does not necessarily indicate
students are avoiding work or
uninterested in it. "They don't
burn out on school work so
much as things crop up in the
their lives to overwhelm
them things like health pro
blems, family losses, children's
illness, financial worries.,,
"Actually," she adds, "I see
more stress in new students.
But once they get settled and
integrate their education pro
cess with their lifestyle, they
seem to be fine."
Before new students—or even
seasoned students coping with
change—negotiate that settling
in period, how can they deter
mine whether they're simply
having a bad day, or developing
a legitimate stress problem?
Counselors Krieger and Beck
point out that stress, after all,
is not entirely bad. "There is a
level at which stress is a
motivator," they say, "but also
a level at which it debilitates."
The debilitating level
manifests itself symptomatical
ly. If a student experiences lack
of energy, ongoing depression,
high irritability, or feelings of
isolation, chances are it's a
stress reaction. Physical symp
toms may indicate severe
stress as well: heart palpita
tions, dizziness, tingling in the
extremities. All these, Beck
says, can be "anxiety reac
tions—those things we called in
the past 'a case of nerves'."
Beck and Krieger have notic
ed an increase of stress reac
tion among students at Capitol
with "fewer outlets they
perceive they have."
Students can find outlets in
recreation and
athletics. Studies conducted by
the Counseling Center indeed
indicate an increased use of
gym facilities and intramural
activities by our students.
Social affairs and formal
group programs (like Study Ef
fectiveness Training) can help
dispel feelings of isolation. Beck
says he encourages these in
teractions because "there's real
value in students seeing that
others feel the same way."
"It's important to have a
balance in your life between
work, study, and having a good
time," advises Dr. Krieger. She
notes a common complaint they
hear at the Counseling Center:
"All I do is study; I have no
Dr. Mahar suggests that
students "organize their time,
allow time for recreation, and
structure their lives to ac
complish something."
Dr. Prince-Embury recom
mends, "Just do what you
can." As part of this approach,
"set more realistic goals for
yourself, Don't expect to main
tain a 4.0 cum if your life
situation has encompassed
many more roles than just
Both Dr. Mahar and Dr.
Prince-Embury say that if
students express or show signs
of stress that can't be dealt
with, they recommend the
Counseling Center.
Counselors Marian Krieger
and Ed Beck treat stress reac
tion after they rule out the
possibility that symptoms
might be a phsyical sickness.
They are well connected within
the surrounding communities
and can recommend more in
tensive counseling, if the severi
ty of the case warrants it. All of
their student clients can depend
upon strict confidentiality.
So it is not burn-out that
frazzled students cope with, but
stress—tension—anxiety. The
bad news is that stress reaction
is increasingly a problem in the
highly charged university at
mosphere at Capitol, and that it
may recur during any transi
tion period. The good news is
that it's a temporary, ad
justmental phenomenon and
that during it, there's help in
them there halls.
••.• \<•
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