Help students cope with stress by promoting resilience

July 21, 2020 | Claudia Stanny

Help students cope with stress by promoting resilience

Over the last 50 years, higher education has come to serve an increasingly diverse student population. In addition, students now report increased levels of stress and anxiety. Counseling Centers on campuses reported addressing student concerns about anxiety at a higher rate in 2016 (50.6% of responding institutions), an increase from 39.4% of responding institutions in 2007 (Reetz, 2017). In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, and stresses associated with remote work and remote learning can exacerbate these problems.

Campuses now manage early response and monitoring teams (at UWF, this is the Campus Care Team,, who review critical cases involving problematic student behavior and offer interventions as appropriate.

Faculty can support this work in two ways:

  1. Create expectations in their classes that support student resilience
  2. Report behaviors of concern to the Campus Care Team

What is student resilience? 

Resilience refers to the ability to respond to “bounce back” from difficult experiences, overcome obstacles, and adapt to the adversity, setbacks, or significant problems or sources of stress that life can deliver. Resilient students tend to treat stressful events and setbacks as expected, if unpleasant, aspects of life. These students actively manage their stress, seek local resources to help them cope with the obstacles and challenges they face, and recognize that early attempts to resolve problems will be more likely to produce a successful outcome (Reetz, 2017). 

Strategies to promote resilience.

Reetz (2017) describes a faculty intervention program designed to promote student resilience at the Rochester Institute of Technology. This program is based on four strategies:

Recognize and normalize existing challenges and obstacles a student is facing.

Reframe setbacks as challenges to be overcome, motivating students to engage in problem-solving and develop effective coping strategies.

Reflect on the role of personal behavior and action in attaining successes.

Reach out and access resources that can help solve problems or alleviate stress. Recognize that few problems are solved by one person working alone and seek help from appropriate resources when needed. Faculty can help inform students about relevant campus resources for assistance.

Refer students to the Campus Care Team when appropriate.

When should faculty call the Campus Care Team about a student of concern?

Disruptive behavior. Referrals may be based on how a student acts. Behaviors that interfere with the university community or learning environment in your classroom, including failure to adhere to expectations for classroom behavior or civility, can be valid reasons for concern.

Disturbing behavior. Faculty who are uneasy, confused, or uncomfortable with a student’s actions or expressed thoughts or feelings may make a referral based on how they feel about the student’s behavior.

Distressing behavior. A referral may be based on concerns about how a student appears to feel. Faculty may report concerns about a student who appears to be struggling emotionally or a student who discloses their personal struggle with an emotional issue or articulates an impaired sense of emotional well-being.



Reetz, D. R. (2017, October). Engaging faculty in prevention, early intervention, and resilience initiatives that promote student well-being and academic success. Presentation at the annual meeting of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, Denver, CO.  

University of West Florida Campus Care Team. 

07/21/2020 ajc