To what extent does numbness take over in the academic world? Finals are approaching for FC students, and I observe around campus how the overwhelming pressures with academic tasks can lead to emotional and physical numbness – ouch!  (Well I suppose not really ouch, because numbness often dulls out pain to where nothing is felt.)

As a Psych Counselor, I know that numbness tends to be the way in which we deal with stress short-term, although it frequently results in long-term pain that catches up. In a way, I think of numbness as avoidance – we don’t want to feel something so stressful. Therefore, we create a short-term solution where we think the problem is resolved.  If putting a bandage over a wound truly works, then fine. If it only covers up the truth of deeper care needed, then perhaps not.

I feel for students here. They work hard. They suffer a lot. The keep going. I understand that college is an investment, and it is great to remember about maintaining balance of self-care also. Besides students, I also notice fellow faculty members (as well as staff and administrations). We seem tired. Perhaps it’s the weather and all the stress with finals. And we keep going.

When people continue to press forward with repetitive stress cycles, numbness is created. It’s as if we turn into robots – no feelings, just keep going.

Whether student or faculty, it’s busy time. The rain, dark, and cold sometimes come back, and they can affect us. How do we teach others and ourselves to identify numbness, find ways to resolve it, and maintain it as needed?

As a Psych Counselor, I support FC students with teaching themselves the adaptive ways to find perseverance and peace. Even though others, including myself, can help students find such ways; I truly believe it is their own life experience that can determine what are best ways to avoid numbness. I call this wisdom.

Some watch videos, while others listen to music. Some socialize, while others enjoy solitude. Some prefer energetic activities, while others enjoy quieter times. Regardless of the adaptive way to cope, I support students with finding as many ways to healthily cope when numbness and stress arise. I like to call it “The Tool Box” that has many coping skills, rather than only a few. One day, one coping tool works (e.g., a hammer), but then another day some other coping tool (e.g., a screw driver) is more needed given the circumstance. Similarly, it can be helpful to have a variety of coping tools.

What do others do to help alleviate numbness when stress arises?


3 thoughts on “Numbness

  1. Thank you, Clifton. This is a wonderful post, and I am glad the students of Foothill College (and the faculty, staff, and administrators) have you as a resource and a guide.

    As for me, I am learning to practice mindfulness. To experience in the present moment whatever it is I am feeling, to acknowledge it, and to not judge it. I would rather feel all of it and keep moving forward than slip into the kind of numbness you are describing. What I have been surprised at times to learn is that I do have the strength to do this, and every time I do it, I grow a tiny bit stronger for the experience.


  2. Indeed, numbness can be a problem. I notice that at this point in the quarter, I don’t particularly feel numb, but I do find it harder to go the extra mile and implement some practices that I know are helpful like being proactive about contacting students who are struggling. Motivation can definitely be a finite resource…though this weekend was helpful to rejuvenate my motivation, as I was able to have a full day off on Saturday, which definitely helped!


  3. Perhaps numbness is what is going on around me and in my classes. The end is near, and there is just too much material for a short quarter. That concept of numbness seems to explain a lot. A very good student came up to me last week and said, “I used to be able to speak English fairly well before I took this class, but now I think I don’t speak English as well.” I tried to explain that learning something is like opening a door and going through it, but on the other side there are three more doors. If you open another one, there are three more, and so forth. I told him that such feelings were temporary as he adjusts to concepts and structures he had never realized existed in English. He had seemed confident with the English he already knew. Expanding that knowledge can make students feel overloaded, and there the idea of numbness may fit. As for me, at the end of each quarter, I am met with profound sadness. The shared experience with a class for one quarter is finished. A particular group of people assembled for a class by sheer chance, and there had been a certain dynamic which will never be the same with another group of students. I always compare it to a train ride, and we are all on one car together for three months. At the end, we all depart in different directions, and each of us takes something different from the experience with us.


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