USF News Archive

Relieve Stress: Take Time for Yourself …and Others

There's help to handle any stressor that comes your way this season and throughout the year.   Home page photo by Wayne Espinola

By Barbara Melendez
     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 3, 2015) – ‘Tis the season for stress – whether the source is school, family, friends – even you – or all of the above, there are plenty of places to turn to for relief – and help.

There are alternatives to a perfect storm-fueled meltdown from the combination of finals, the holidays and commencement for some. And there’s no need to wait for a full-blown crisis. Feeling out-of-sorts and just needing to talk it out to find out what’s going on inside can serve as a preventive measure.

USF’s resources are easy to find and readily available. The Counseling Center accepts walk-ins and offers group counseling sessions as well as regular programs focused on meditation, building healthy relationships and learning to let go.

Time spent getting into and staying in shape has a powerful side effect – an improved outlook on life. USF’s Recreation Center is beautiful, well-equipped and inviting facility. Or stay in shape by walking. You don't have to go far. USF's Botanical Gardens invite a relaxing stroll as does the USF Contemporary Art Museum. Both are free.

If simply finding a quiet place to study is troubling you, the Marshall Student Center became the Marshall Study Center through Dec. 10 to provide you the environment you need. Your study group can arrange for space there as well. Students let off steam at the kickoff celebration on Tuesday in the MSC Atrium and the Midnight Breakfast.

Helping others can provide a lift to the spirits as well. The USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement maintains a list of service opportunities at

A couple of projects of note: Volunteers are needed for meal delivery with Meals on Wheels Dec. 1 to 19. A number of time slots are available. For more information contact Ida at (813) 238-8410.

There is also a community giveaway outreach event being held by the International Harvest Center Church of God Dec. 1 to 12 at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Volunteers are needed to sort giveaway items, make food and care bags, work at an outreach table, take photos, set up tables and chairs and take on other tasks. For more information email

Metropolitan Ministries needs help with its annual holiday tent, for more information click here or visit

Giving Thanks Helps Too

With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, being thankful doesn't have to end. When it comes to stress, sometimes simply remembering to feel grateful can be therapeutic. Did you participate in the 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge? All through November, as part of a national initiative, students, faculty and staff posted their reasons for feeling grateful in tweets and in videos on YouTube.

“The field of positive psychology has shown a lot of research that practicing gratitude can improve mood in people,” said Licensed Psychologist Nicholas Joyce, on the Center’s counseling staff. “We believe this could be a fun and interactive way to help our students build these skills in their lives.”

Joyce and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Heidi Petracco, part of the center’s administrative staff, are overseeing the project.

“People had fun with it and found unique things to post about,” Joyce said. “During this stressful time of the year it can be challenging to show gratitude and it can be done. We have to think beyond the frustration of writing a final paper and appreciate the fact we are able to be in college doing this paper in the first place!”

The Counseling Center partnered with USF’s Parent and Family Programs for their Bulls Day of Gratitude two weeks ago. Students wrote letters of appreciation to important people in their lives which were mailed for them. Joyce encouraged them to “continue that practice of gratitude on a daily basis.”

Once the center staff evaluates the gratitude project, they will decide whether or not to continue being involved in an active way. Meanwhile, you can give yourself a lift any time by viewing others’ contributions on Facebook and Twitter.

Looking ahead to when all the stresses go their merry way – as they inevitably will – the Counseling Center is launching its “Ready, Set, Goal” goal-setting initiative. When all is said and done, reaching out – whether to USF resources or friends and family – can result in brighter days to come.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563

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