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Keep calm and reach on

Founder of Campus Calm to host workshop on perfectionism and stress

The Spectrum

Maria Pascucci grew up being "the smart kid." Her role was "the smart one" and she began to base her identity around it. Although her parents didn't place pressure on her and she wasn't just a test score to them, Pascucci could not give herself credit for any of her good qualities, except her intelligence.

Now, Pascucci is a life coach, author and speaker, helping students so they don't have to suffer needlessly from problems of striving to be perfect like she did.

On Tuesday, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., SBI Health Education will host "Keep Calm ... with Maria Pascucci." The workshop will focus on issues of perfectionism and stress among students, according to Jane Fischer, director of SBI Health Education.

After speaking at the Western New York Leadership Conference in February, Pascucci was approached by an attendee. He told her he had been to many leadership conferences that taught him how to get good grades, how to find a good job and how to make money.

But Pascucci's speech was the first one that taught him how to be happy.

The goal of the workshop is to help students enjoy the full college experience and lay the foundation for a happy and successful life, Pascucci said. There's power in sharing truths out loud, Pascucci said, and helping students realize they are not alone in their struggles with stress.

"When you develop a happy, strong sense of self and purpose as a leader, you [will be] surprised to find that everything else begins to naturally fall into place," Pascucci said.

The top three life issues that American college students say affect their studies are stress, sleep difficulties and anxiety, according to the latest available figures from the American College Health Association's College Health Assessment.

Pascucci plans to address these issues. The beginning of the workshop is devoted to exposing one of the fundamental barriers to leadership, health, confidence and resilience - perfectionism.

Perfectionism is something she's struggled with herself.

Pascucci was the first in her family to go to college. She was a classic overachiever, she said. She graduated from Canisius College in 2001 at the top of her class, summa cum laude.

But honors were not the only things Pascucci graduated with - she also left with stress and anxiety-induced health problems.

In 2007, Pascucci founded Campus Calm, a leadership development and empowerment company that strives to teach resilience to college women leaders, according to its website. Pascucci defines resilience as not only the ability to bounce back from challenge, adversity and change, but also the ability to grow through it. Pascucci also published Campus Calm University, a 10-step blueprint that instructs students to learn about perfectionism and how it can hinder leadership, health and confidence building.

Pascucci talks with students from all over the world, some as young as 12 years old, who also suffer from problems of stress and anxiety.

There is a line between being a high achiever and an overachiever, Pascucci said. While getting good grades, being engaged in class and being driven by a love of learning is "a wonderful thing," it becomes a problem when a student begins to sacrifice his or her health.

Although Pascucci strives to help students to grow from the inside out, she believes no person can fix another. The workshop doesn't focus on fixing someone; it's about helping students work through pressure in a healthy and empowering way.

Eighty-six percent of college students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past 12 months, according to the College Health Assessment.

She plans on discussing how students can "lead from a place of authenticity and resilience," instead of from fear, stress and pressure.

It's important to talk about how perfectionism can lead to anxiety, depression and doubt, according to Pascucci. One of the biggest downfalls of perfectionism, in both students and adults of all ages, is the creation of self-doubt, she said.

"I have seen far too many brilliant, talented people with big ideas who hide the truth of who they are for fear of not being good enough," Pascucci said.

Pascucci plans to share stories that speak to the issue of perfectionism. Her professor once told her about a student who dropped a class because she would not be receiving an A. Although the student loved the class, she didn't want it to affect her GPA. It's unfortunate, Pascucci said, when stress and pressure to maintain a high GPA lead to someone missing out on learning.

"If you view your college experience as a way to build your unique skills and find out what your sense of purpose in life [is] and not just a way to build your success portfolio as a grade, it becomes exactly what it's supposed to be - a measure of your knowledge in a particular subject, not a way to gauge your self-worth," Pascucci said.

Pascucci focuses on speaking with college students because her own experiences make her "uniquely relatable to the student market." In her 20s, Pascucci realized if she could reach students at a young age and help them let go of limiting mindsets, she could better the world for generations.

"Letting go of the pressure to be perfect at a young age frees students to lead healthier, happier lives," Pascucci said. "Should they choose to someday have kids, they'll be healthier, more resilient parents (or aunts/uncles/role models, etc.), and the cycle of perfectionism will be broken. It may sound idealistic, but I truly believe change happens one choice at a time, one person at a time."

The cause of perfectionism is different for everyone, Pascucci said. For her, it was the label of being "the smart one," but for others, it could be the influence of a perfectionist household or attending a fiercely competitive high school.

To be a happy and healthy college student, Pascucci believes it starts by living a life based on honoring your authentic self.

The workshop will be held in 112 Norton, and attendees will receive a free download of Pascucci's eBook, Campus Calm University.


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