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The Stress Council

At this point, I feel as if the University has gone overboard with the amount of stress it puts on students. The question is no longer “Are you stressed?”; the question is now “How stressed are you?” It is no longer a matter of if you’re stressed, but to what extent you are and what the cause of your stress is. While life isn’t all candy and roses and some form of stress will always be present in our lives, I think we can have some sort of happy medium: appropriate stress, but not to the point of sacrificing mental health.

As the old adage goes, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not insane and I refuse to allow myself, my friends, and my fellow Princetonians continue this toxic and unhealthy behavior that the stress culture on campus has caused.

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The University is by no stretch of the imagination perfect. Yes, the University has engaged in many efforts to promote stress relief and has demonstrated a concern for its students’ mental wellness. There are workshops that focus solely on stress and mental health, and I have seen posters around campus for graduate student mental health week.

However, the amount of attention that combating stress receives from an administrative standpoint can be increased — there is always room for improvement in the way in which stress is handled on campus. I’m calling for something bigger than the efforts the University has put forth so far: a Stress Council. We have the Undergraduate Student Government, whose purpose is to govern students, and the Honor Committee, whose purpose is to academically police students, so why not introduce a Stress Council to provide the University community with various outlets of relaxation and create a less stressful environment on campus?

I’m not saying we should all be relaxed all the time. We need assignments and deadlines and projects and exams because that is how an institution of higher education works. The University has high expectations of students. Yes, it is great to be part of extracurricular activities to have an outlet outside of school to showcase other talents, but University students need less stress. With the busy schedules we all have, it would be unfair to put the weight of planning out more time to destress on us students, who simply do not have the time to do so. However, as the University is a place designed for undergraduates to simultaneously thrive and be creative, undergraduates who feel they have the time to plan out events should be at the forefront of destressing the campus.

The administration, while excellent on many fronts, cannot be as in touch with student body needs as students themselves can be. Students know what students want and more importantly, what students need. We need to combine the ideas of the students with the funding and resources of the administration to effectively lessen the stress culture on campus.

The process for starting a Stress Council is simple. Take the USG class council model: this year, the freshman class had more than 20 candidates vying for five spots on the USG class council. We can use this same template for each class to design specific initiatives and events intended to relieve stress on campus.

I hope that by the time I graduate in the spring of 2022, at the very minimum, a greater initiative will have been taken to counteract the stress culture of the University. At the end of the day, even if we never see a Stress Council come to fruition, we should all fight for a less stressed community for the betterment of all. Regardless of what approach is taken going forward, student-run stress programs have to be part of the underlying mindset for future initiatives regarding stress on campus.

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Elijah Benson is a first-year from Newark, N.J. He can be reached at ebenson@princeton.edu.

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