Counseling Services representatives urge students to unwind safely, responsibly during upcoming academic breaks

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As fall and winter breaks quickly approach students look forward to some much needed time off. For many, it’s a time to forget about due dates, unwind from stressful schedules and spend time with the friends and family they left behind at the beginning of the semester.

Chaz Mailey, psychologist and coordinator for the Alcohol and Other Drug Education Services of Counseling Services and Michael Dreiling, program assistant of Counseling Services, spent Tuesday evening reaching out to an auditorium of students to remind them to have fun and unwind responsibly.

K-State’s Counseling Services have found that some students turn to drinking over their holiday breaks after months of being stressed and busy, which can lead to problems that make the time off more taxing than it needs to be.

“As we have discovered, a fairly large percentage of students after their first few months of college significantly increase the amount and frequency of drinking,” Mailey said.

This is the first time that a seminar like this had been coordinated by Mailey and Dreiling, and both said they hope to continue to do so next semester before Fake Patty’s Day and spring break.

“Myself and Mike thought it was important to inform K-State students about some of the potential dangers that could occur when people go home for the holidays with the new mindset and manner of relating to alcohol,” Mailey said.

Students sometimes go home to see their old friends, and consciously or subconsciously, believe that alcohol will be a significant aspect of their get-togethers, Mailey said.

“It might not be this holiday, but eventually students will be talking to their parents and friends and they realize that things are different,” Dreiling said. “They’ve grown-up.”

While the holidays are a great time to go home and sip on wine with family or have a beer with friends, drinking should not be students’ sole focus. Dreiling said students often go home and plan a flurry of visits and parties with old friends, but forget to just take time and relax.

“Everyone comes back from all different places and shares their stories about what they’ve done and sometimes it gets competitive, like they have to keep up with each other,” Dreiling said.

One thing that is always talked about is drinking and driving. Getting a DUI could ruin anyone’s holiday, but Mailey and Dreiling said that it’s not the only problem to worry about. Dreiling said students should always have a plan when they go out and drink. They should know who they are with, where they are going and how they are getting around. Mailey said a plan helps avoid a lot of issues. If students use the buddy system this helps cut down even more accidents.

It’s important to think about the small things that no one thinks will happen. Accidents like falling, slipping or wandering off are a much bigger issue in the winter when cold temperatures are a threat. Having someone looking out for you is the best way to avoid accidents, Mailey said.

“Speaking as an upper classman, going home is sometimes more difficult than living there before college, simply because I’ve grown used to being more independent,” said Hannah Martin, junior in English education and second year residential assistant. “When you go home, you and your parents have to establish a new balance. You’re not as dependent on your parents as you once were and your parents may still hold onto and try to parent the child they sent off to college.”

Dreiling said there are many new dynamics between students and their old friends and their parents. The holidays should be a time to have fun and be carefree, but not careless. His best advice to students is to keep an open line of communication with parents. While it can sometimes be awkward, it’s the only way they know to keep you safe now that many old rules, like curfews, are no longer enforced.

Miley said there’s also nothing wrong with non-alcoholic alternatives. The breaks can be a good time to catch up with siblings, read a book, pick up a new hobby or go see a movie with friends.

While unwinding and drinking isn’t bad, Mailey and Dreiling said they just want students to be smart about it.

“If we have any advice for students, it is to enjoy yourself, but make sure you and the people you care about are safe,” Mailey said. “Try to avoid binge drinking, promote fun, safe and healthy activities with friends.”

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