College can be an exciting time in young people’s lives, as they explore their independence and prepare for a bright future. However, it can also be a period of transition, growth, and changes, often leading to stress in college students. While some stress can be beneficial in motivating students to develop their competencies and skills, too much stress can become dangerous to one’s health.
Juggling schoolwork, grades, extra-curriculars, sports, jobs, relationships, and a social life can be hectic. Fortunately, there are ways college students can combat stress and improve their experience while in school. Read on to learn about stress in college and how students can manage it.
Types of Stress
Stress is a natural reaction to uncomfortable or dangerous situations. When a person perceives a threat or significant challenge, the adrenal gland releases cortisol and epinephrine. However, experiencing too much cortisol can negatively impact an individual’s well-being.
The three main types of stress include:
- Acute stress: This short-term stress can result from an approaching deadline or major exam. It may feel intense for a short while but goes away.
- Episodic stress: This type of stress can happen on a frequent basis from taking on too much responsibility or being overburdened.
- Chronic stress: Chronic stress is experiencing stress over a prolonged period. It is the most harmful type of stress to an individual’s health.
Causes of Stress
College is a major life event that comes with many responsibilities and demands.
The following are major sources of stress for students:
- Academic pressure
- Living away from home
- Financial struggles
- Conflicts with a roommate
- Romantic relationships
- Social obligations
- Post-graduation plans
Symptoms of Stress
Unchecked stress may lead to headaches, irritability, rapid heartbeat, a weakened immune system, trouble sleeping, and appetite changes. This can affect a student’s academic performance and relationships. In some cases, college stress can lead to other health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and sleep disorders.
How to Relieve Stress at School
It’s important for college students to alleviate stress so they can succeed in their academic endeavors and live healthy, balanced lives.
The following are some ways students can relieve the pressures of college:
- Be active. Exercise can help release tension, boost mood and decrease stress levels. Easy ways to be more active around campus include parking farther from buildings, taking the stairs, walking to destinations, etc.
- Have an outlet. Playing sports, journaling, painting, cooking, or drawing can help pupils get relief from the pressures of college life.
- Try mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment. Practicing mindfulness or meditation can help calm the mind, improve focus and lower the body’s stress response.
- Reach out for help. When stress becomes too much to handle, it’s important to reach out to mental health sources. Talking to a mental health professional can help college students find healthy ways to cope with stress.
While college can be overwhelming at times, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences in a young adult’s life. By understanding stress, students can learn to manage it in healthy ways and better prepare for challenges post-college. For more information, please see the accompanying resource.
About the Author: Dr. Kenya Grooms is a clinical psychologist and Dean of Student Affairs at Generations College, the oldest two-year, private, nonprofit institution in Illinois. Generations offers educational programs for court reporting, criminal justice, business administration, and more. Dr. Grooms has written and presented about family life, international partnerships, personal resilience, support services for non-traditional students, and many other topics in psychology.
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