Benjamin Franklin once said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” However, college students face another certainty: stress. Most college students know the feeling of having homework due, exams to study for while still wanting to go have fun. It is times like these when students get that overwhelming, familiar feeling of stress.
As freshmen, students are thrown into the brand new world of college: classes, homework, dorms, food, everything. They are forced to deal with new levels of stress, which can be a shock for many. However, freshmen are not the only ones dealing with it. Juniors and seniors face the challenge of heading into the real world, finding jobs, and leaving the relative safety of college.
Stress is more than just the feeling of being overwhelmed. Mentally, stress is anything that poses a challenge, such as finishing a paper before its deadline or running that last half-mile. However, the body has a psychical reaction to stress. Known as the General Adaptation Syndrome, the body reacts to the stressor by making the brain more alert, increasing the heart rate, quickening one’s breathing and releasing adrenaline. In addition, the digestive and immune systems, which are not needed in a crisis situation, shut down completely. Even eustress or “good stress” produces this reaction from the body.
Being a student is really a juggling act. Students have every different kind of commitment imaginable: class, homework, studying, internships, jobs, volunteering, family, friends, religious organizations, and so on. This diverse group of obligations makes for a well-rounded community, but also a busy one. A huge stressor for students is time. The feeling of not having enough hours during the day often forces students to stay up well into the night to finish their homework. This creates a lack of sleep, which is, according to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), the number one stressor for students.
“I’m tired at 9 and struggling to stay awake,” said MU senior Arleyna Loss, who is taking a full load of classes, volunteers at Penn Manor High School, and holds a part-time job. In addition, finances are a concern for many students. Tuition, living expenses, and the cost of food can add up quickly. College students often face the scary question of, “How am I going to pay for this?”
In the midst of everything else, college students need to find the time to take care of themselves. Making a home-cooked dinner or going to the gym can fall by the wayside when assignments pile up and things are due. Making time to step away from school and stress might pay off in the long run. Stress has been shown to affect college student’s GPAs and according to UNCC, how a student perceives their own stress can affect how much stress they are actually under.
The effects are staggering. Constant stress has been linked to mental and psychical illness. The strain on the body from being under stress for too long can lead to exhaustion and breakdown. 94% of students have felt “overwhelmed” and 63 percent reported feeling “hopeless” at times. A study published by the American Journal of Health Education on stress in college students found that students are “overwhelmed,” “suffer from emotional ups and downs,” and “have difficulty falling asleep.” In fact, students were classified as “a tired, overworked group of individuals.”
Students can be tempted to drink or abuse other substances as a way of coping with the stress. However studies show that using substances as a stress-relief method only hinder the ability to handle stress. And those who use alcohol or other substances to deal with stress suffered more from stress-related psychical ailments than those who did not.
Stress needs to be dealt with and it cannot be ignored. Some of the best ways to deal with stress are:
– Time management: Studies show effective time management skills can increase academic performance. Start a project well before it is due. Break up a large project into little chunks to be completed.
– Take a break: Walk away from the stressor for a little. Even taking just 20 minutes to get a clear head can help.
– Take care of yourself: Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Make time to go to the gym. Eat a balanced diet. The American Journal of Health Education published a study showing that those who take better care of themselves have a higher stress tolerance.
– Find something relaxing: Wheter it is yoga, meditation, running, drawing, whatever, find something away from the stressor.
If necessary, seek counseling: If the stress becomes too much, counseling is always an option. MU offers free academic counseling to students. To make an appointment call them at (717) 872-3122. Their services are completely confidential.