Ofa Moea‘i, a licensed clinical social worker at BYU-Hawaii Counseling Services, said stress is a real, physological experience that students can cope with through therapeutic techniques, a healthy diet, and keeping an eternal perspective in mind.
“When we remember [God’s] plan, we would accept that stress is what we have signed up for,” said Moea‘i. “Not only did we sign up for this in God’s plan, but there is a reason for this.”
She said people tend to associate stress with something happening in their head, but stress is a physiological component that the body is experiencing. Because of this, she recommended breathing to help students along with muscle relaxation.
Moea‘i said she is fond of cognitive therapy, which is designed to help clients think through the stress, have a conversation about their concerns, and change their thoughts and attitude.
More research has shown that diet is correlated to our mental health, Moea‘i added, so student should make a “conscious efforts” to eat whole, natural foods.
As a mother, Moea‘i said her family benefits when they eat healthier, avoid eating out or packaged foods, and eat natural foods. “[My kids] have better concentration in school, they don’t fight as much, they sleep better, they are less angry and cranky.”
According to Moea‘i, students experience stress from new marriages, separation from a loved one, physical health issues, or a pre-existing mental illness such as anxiety. Brian Wheeler, a senior from Hauula studying information technology, said, “Concerns I have are with relationships within my life, whether it's family, friends, or more [being] intimate. Those relationships to me are important and I put in effort to them.”
Kryssa Stevenson, a senior TESOL major from Utah, said, “For me, the biggest one is always family responsibilities. I can stay focused if it’s financial things or if there’s friend drama, but if someone is sick and needs me to take care of them or there’s some kind of family crisis, school will always take a backseat.”
Wheeler shared his ways of coping with stress: “I manage my stress by planning ahead with work so I don't have to procrastinate things. When I have extra time, I do things that I like such as going on hikes or talking with friends. Keeping my mind off of my work for a little makes it so that I can go back with a new set of eyes and see things that I may have overlooked.”
Stevenson said, “A lot of Polynesians actually don't stress that much because the idea is that even if you don't sleep and lose hair over stuff, life still happens. So it's better to focus on fixing the problems than getting caught up in stress that's not going to help you. But whenever I feel really mad or have a lot on my mind, I like to work out or talk to a relative until I feel better.”
Moea’i said she is grateful to work at BYUH as a counselor because she can counsel clients from both a psychological and gospel perspective.
One way Moea‘i said students can deal with stress is seeing “the big picture” that Heavenly Father has created for them. “Ultimately, if we back up, pan out and look at the big picture, we would feel less stressed.”