Common Questions and Concerns

Common Questions and Concerns

New in Town

Question: I am currently enrolled at another Penn State campus, but I am in the Harrisburg area on a semester-long internship. I recently experienced a romantic break-up and would like to meet with a member of your staff. Am I eligible for counseling with you if I am enrolled elsewhere or do I have to drive 2 hours to my home campus?

Response: We provide services to currently-enrolled Penn State students. If you are currently enrolled at a Penn State campus, but are closer to us due to academically-related internship or co-op, we would be happy to work with you. Please give us a call at 717-948-6025 so that we can arange an appointment. --Steve Backels

Transferring Classes

Question: I am transferring this semester from another Penn State campus. I have changed my major to psychology and want to make sure that I have scheduled the right classes for the fall. I have attached my degree audit. Please let me know how things look.

Response: I'm impressed that you are seeking assistance on your course selection, especially since you are transferring and changing your major. However, we aren't the right office for that question. I have forwarded your email to the Division of Undergraduate Studies and a member of that staff should get back to you soon. --Steve Backels

Too Much Stress, Too Little Sleep

Question: I am almost a straight 'A' student. I feel very overwhelmed right now. Early this semester I was hired for a new position related to my major and career. I don't think I'm doing a very good job. I'm running from class to work to study. Even when I have down time I think about class or work. I hate the work, but don't want to disappoint anyone and it would look good on my resume. I'm doing fairly well in school, but have been losing sleep over work and school and starting to take sleeping medication which makes me more exhausted. I'm stressed out and not enjoying college right now.

Response: I'm glad you wrote. It sounds like being overwhelmed with responsibilities has caused you anxiety which is interfering with all aspects of your life including sleep. It also sounds like the project is something you don't enjoy, but you don't want to disappoint others or miss a career opportunity.

It might be helpful for you to list the pros and cons of continuing with the work -- be sure to include its impact on your mental health. The reality is that there are times when we have to engage in work assignments that we don't enjoy. It may be helpful for you to identify the consequences of your choice to continue with this work. I also suggest that you reflect on healthy ways you have coped with stress in the past and try to incorporate those strategies right now.

We all have difficulties sleeping on occasion. While taking sleeping medication can sometimes offer a temporary solution, it is rarely a good long-term solution and often causes unwanted side effects -- such as exhaustion. Your anxiety seems to be a major cause of your sleep problems. It is probably helpful to manage your stress which will most likely improve your sleep.

Managing stress can include many behavioral, emotional, and cognitive strategies that improve self-care including good nutrition, relaxation, exercise, leisure activities, healthy self-talk, having a good cry, and talking to a trusted friend or relative. Sometimes our anxiety worsens when we interpret situations inaccurately because we have distorted the facts and aren't viewing things realistically. The following websites may help:

  • Mental Health America
  • Stress and Anxiety: Here's What You Need To Know
  • The Unabridged Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet Collection

Sometimes a few sessions of counseling can help you to increase your self-awareness and coping skills. If you would like to make an appointment with someone on our staff, please call us at 717 948 6025. Take care and I wish you well. -- Maria Murphy

Loss and Grief

Question: One of my relatives died suddenly a few weeks ago. My entire family is stressed and depressed. My grades are dropping and I haven't been to many of my classes. Is there anything the counseling center can do about the attendance policy in my classes? Or about my grades in general?

Response: I am very sorry to hear about your loss. It sounds as if everyone is feeling it deeply.

The short answer to your question on attendance is that it would be best for you to contact each of your professors to explain the reasons for the classes you have missed. Some classes have a rigid attendance policy (often for good reason), but some professors may be flexible if they understand and your absences do not interfere with the core expectations of the class.

You probably want to alert your academic advisor as well. He or she is probably in a good position to help you discuss your grades and develop a strategy to address them.

And you may find it helpful to talk with some who is trained to help those who are grieving. Our responses to loss can be very individualized and it can be helpful to share with someone who has not been directly affected in the way your family members have. Perhaps a clergy member or a member of our counseling staff can assist. If you would like to speak with one of our counselors, please call 717 948 6025 so we can help you set an appointment.

Wishing the best to you and your family. --Steve Backels

Stress? Blandness? Depression?

Question: I already have one degree and have worked for three years, but didn't like my job. I decided to return to school for another degree. I find that I hate the degree program in which I'm currently enrolled. I am disinterested in classes and don't care as much as I should. I am doing OK academically, but should be doing better.

I recently went to a program about stress management and found that I exhibit most of the symptoms discussed in the program and listed in the handout. I don't know if what I am feeling is brought on by stress or more. I have been feeling like this for at least four years. I went to counseling in 2007 and it helped, but didn't solve the problem. My life just feels bland. I find myself irritated and think negatively rather than being happy and thinking positively. It feels as if there is something nagging at me.

I would like to come in and talk about this if possible, but I am emotionally closed-off and need to think about things before I say them. I feel more comfortable writing rather than making an appointment.

Response: Thanks for your message. It sounds as if things just don't feel good in a variety of areas. "Stress" is a broad term that can mean different things to different people. It can mean pressure from many directions at once, it can mean depressed mood, it can mean nervousness or anxiety or any combination of the above.

You say that you visited with a counselor before. Perhaps it gave some relief, but it appears to have not hit the source of your "blandness." Our counselors would be happy to meet with you if you would like to examine this overall feeling of dissatisfaction. Feel free to call 717 948 6025 if you would like to meet with one of us. Whatever, the case, I wish you the best. --Steve Backels

Marriage Counseling

Question: I was wondering if you offer marriage counseling?

Response: Thanks for asking. Yes, we do provide marriage and couples counseling. We are unable to see a nonstudent member of a marriage or couple for individual sessions, but can work with nonstudents in couples counseling. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at 717 948 6025. --Steve Backels

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