December 17, 2017

Stress room is a valuable asset, but needs outreach

When a student walks into Costa's stress room, they see a couch with the sign "#breathe" above it in order to remind students that they can relax and clear their minds while they are in the room. School nurse Hedy Deck believed that this calm atmosphere would permit students to de-stress and freshen their minds before returning to class.

By Maysen Marolda

Staff Writer

Considering high school’s stressful nature, the health office’s stress room is a beneficial and necessary resource that will allow students to relax so they can process and resolve stressful thoughts and feelings they may face on campus. School administration should take additional steps to inform students of the new option and ensure its proper use by students in order to maximize the room’s potential.

Students do not have many areas to rest on campus without the school counting those resting periods as unexcused absences, Mira Costa nurse Hedy Deck said. The stress room, on the other hand, provides students with a vital space to de-stress and ensures that  this period of relaxation counts as an excused absence. Therefore, the new stress room is not only necessary but also fair in ensuring that students are as relaxed as possible at Costa.

Check out what the stress room looks like here. 

The range of activities available, including drawing and coloring, helps make the stress room effective in reducing anxiety, Deck said. This is evident through a 2014 study by Girija Kaimal, assistant professor of creative arts therapies at Drexel University, that showed that just 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress. Similarly, art and related activities in the stress room allow students to ease the tension caused by their current academic workloads. Enabling students to disconnect from the stressors they face during the school day and retreat into these consolatory activities is a meaningful way in which the health office has shown its dedication to alleviating student stress.

According to a La Vista survey of 200 students, 51% of students believes that, in the long run, the room will be partially effective, and an additional 21% believes that the room will be very effective in providing an outlet for student stress on campus. Consequently, it is evident that a majority of Costa’s student population trusts that the room will work effectively over time, revealing that the stress-reducing goal of the room is fully recognized and supported by students.

When students go to the stress room, their absence from class is excused, Deck said. Excusing absences resulting from visits to the room is an important step in eradicating any punishment associated with seeking relief from stress. If students need to go to the room, they will not feel apprehensive to do so in fear that the absence will be marked as a truant.

According to the La Vista survey, out of the five initiatives that Costa has implemented with the goal of reducing stress, such as the office hours schedule on Wednesdays and the course planning time management worksheet, students believe that the stress room is the second most successful initiative, following office hours. Thus, it is clear that, in the eyes of students, the health office has provided a wholly effective option to help those who struggle with anxiety or stress.

So far, students have not overused the room, Deck said. However, considering that the potential exists  for students to take advantage of the room, there should be a policy that holds students accountable by determining whether their use of the room is appropriate given their circumstances. Students would still be able to utilize the room if they feel overwhelmed and need to relax, but they would not be able to use it as an excuse to miss class.

The stress room is a valuable addition to the nurse’s office, as it serves as a safe, protected environment for students experiencing symptoms of stress, such as acute anxiety or panic attacks. Even though a majority of Costa’s student population has not utilized the room and currently there is no concrete system of accountability, it is always available for students who need to recuperate in order to return to class with a better focus.

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