Stress. For many students, it is simply one more thing to bring to the start of a new semester. Much like a computer, stress becomes a constant companion in daily life. For some, the stress of returning to college becomes more than they can bear.
“It is all the homework and all the expectations dumped on you at one time,” said Kendra Hartman, freshman early childhood education and intervention specialist major.
Feeling overwhelmed is a common theme among students and professors, especially during the first several weeks of classes. Each person experiences stress differently, and the newness of college can lead to anxiety particularly among freshmen.
“It’s so new,” said Hartman. “You have to make new friends, you want to hang out with them and keep meeting people. You have to do homework, organize everything, keep your room clean and remember to eat. It’s a lot.”
This can be a large transition from how students operated even just last year.
“In high school everything is handed to you,” said Hartman. “You already have friends; you already have your classes.”
Sara Walthour, senior nursing major, described a different cause of stress as she prepares to graduate.
“My stress comes from learning what I need to learn to be a good nurse,” said Walthour. “I get more stressed out when situations arise that are more practical.”
Walthour said she finds the stress management to be helpful in preparing for her future career.
“Nursing can be stressful in general, so it’s good to get used to managing your stress level,” said Walthour. “I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life.”
Learning to maintain a healthy amount of stress can be difficult for many students. For some, the task may seem impossible.
Tim Morber, director of the counseling center, said too much stress can become crippling for students. It may even be manifested as anxiety and depression.
“[Overstressed] students tend to become immobilized,” said Morber.
But students may be granting stress too much power in life and allowing it to become an entrapment.
“I would say that stress has almost become a status symbol,” said Morber. “We carry it around like a badge. We’ve created busyness as a way to make us feel important.”
Stress does not need to affect students to this degree. There are several steps students can take to manage the stress in their lives.
“The first and most basic step is good time management,” said Morber.
Students should learn to prioritize importance over urgency, Morber said. Although an invitation to an evening out with friends may seem to be important in the moment, it is only an urgent concern. An assignment for the next day is probably the important choice in the situation.
“Be responsive to the important instead of reacting to the urgent,” said Morber.
After prioritizing, students should strive to create an accurate image of their thoughts and feelings, Morber said.
“The next step is just to be present in the moment,” Morber said. “It takes practice to do that, but if people can learn to be present in the moment, they are going to be much calmer.”
Finally, Morber said a simple discipline of thanksgiving can greatly impact the effects of stress.
“Adopt an attitude of gratitude and consider all of the blessings we have in each and every day,” Morber said. “Be grateful for the opportunity to take another breath.”
Aside from organization and creating a plan, there are several steps students can take to reduce stress physiologically.
“Exercise in moderation is one of the best ways to manage stress,” said Morber.
Participating in 45 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week can be as effective as medication for depression. Walking, dancing or running can significantly reduce stress.
Practicing meditation is also a method to combat stress. Discovering time to be still each day is another possible coping mechanism.
Even spending planned time having fun can be instrumental to overcoming stress. Being intentional with laughter and joy will reduce stress common at the start of a semester.
Morber said perspective is the foundation to managing stress. Before getting too worked up, consider if the situation will still be worth thinking about five or ten years from now.
“Each and every one of us experiences stress every day in varying degrees,” Morber said. “A little bit of stress is good in terms of staying on top of things, and if we keep at it, everything’s going to be okay.”
Stress is an inescapable part of daily life, but it does not have to dictate how students interact with the world. If students are unable to overcome the stress in their life, the counseling center is an available resource for managing it. Located on the third floor of the barn, counseling appointments are free for enrolled students.
Although stress is as common as a syllabus when starting a semester, it does not have to impact day-to-day life in a detrimental way. Stress can be managed and drive students to perform at their best in and out of the classroom.
Alicia Meyer is the copy editor for The Aviso