Combating ill effects of college stress factors

by Amber Cox

The impact of stress on college students is seen very clearly at Rider, where already this semester there have been three non-alcohol-related transports to the hospital.

Stress — what people feel when they have to handle more than they are used to — is thought to be a major cause of these transports.

Nadine Marty, director of Counseling Services, believes that students need to pay more attention to their stress levels.

“Stress levels and increased levels of anxiety do impact students’ ability to function at their peak,” Marty said. “They may find that they are more prone to physical illness, have a diminished capacity to focus attention and concentrate, feel more irritable and restless, may not enjoy activities as much as they usually do and have eating and sleeping changes. And anything that would have been problematic before, now is magnified, like relationship difficulties, financial worries, etc.”

During flu season, it is important for students to control these different pressures, because it weakens a person’s immune system. The body is more vulnerable to illness, from minor infections to more serious diseases.

There are two types of stress: the kind that has immediate effects, acute, and the kind that has an effect over time, chronic.

Anxiety and low self-esteem can contribute to more serious mental health problems. A 2003 National Survey of Counseling Center Directors found more than 80 percent of colleges are seeing more students with serious psychological problems than they were five years ago.

Not all stress is bad. A little bit of pressure is positive and can help motivate a person.

“I’m busy, but not really stressed out,” said sophomore Melissa Cooper. “It’s constructive stress.”

Too much stress can have negative effects if it goes unnoticed and reaches the point where signs become physical or emotional.

Senior Taysiah Varnie is feeling the pressure.

“I get very overwhelmed because I am involved in a lot of activities on campus,” she said. “Many of my classes clash when it comes to exams and I get really stressed about this because I am obligated to study for each exam at the same time.”

There are signs of stress that students can look out for, such as changes in sleeping patterns, changes in eating patterns, frequent headaches, recurring colds and a variety of other symptoms.

Students need to discover what works for them in order to deal with tension. Each person will have different methods.

“How to combat stress is dependent on what works for each individual in particular,” Marty said. “However, there are some general principles to follow.”

Marty said it is very important for students to take care of themselves physically. She added that it is important for students to eat and sleep properly, and they should be getting moderate levels of exercise.

“Eliminating extra unnecessary duties and streamlining schedules can be helpful as well,” Marty said. “Finally, not adding more or new responsibilities during stressful times prevents spreading oneself too thin.”

Many people rely on stability in their lives; when that stability is broken, people become overwhelmed.

“Students often rely on the stability that comes from their families or from the support systems they have off-campus,” Marty said. “The economy and the election have generally diminished people’s levels of security and safety, so students here may be reflecting on what’s going on at home. They may, then, also feel less secure generally. Of course, this would additionally impact their confidence in how they’re going to fund their schooling.”

Not all students are having problems with stress this year. Sophomores Siobhan Woods and Rich Mackay are not feeling any pressure this semester.

“I learned from last year and developed time management, and I know what I need to do to pass and get good grades,” Woods said.

“I try not to let everything overtake me at once,” Mackay said. “I take it one at a time.”

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