Post-secondary education is meant to be one of the most exciting experiences of your life. For many, this marks your transition into adulthood and the beginning of your careers. It also means a new level of independence, whether from managing your own academic path or living away from home for the first time. Of course, these all represent big changes – and big pressure, too. Students constantly feel the need to perform at the best of their ability, so they can get the most out of the experience. Because of this, stress is a normal part of the post-secondary experience. What isn’t normal is stress in debilitating amounts, but this is unfortunately common. More students than ever are in need of help for anxiety and depression as a result of constant stress.
Research into College Students and Stress
The effects of stress on college students have recently become a focus of popular study. In 2014, a team of researchers from the Franciscan University of Steubenville attempted to understand the causes of stress, depression, and anxiety in college students. They cited major concerns that included students experiencing a worse quality of life as a result of anxiety, and paying less attention to physical health as a result of depression. They also identified ten major causes of significant stress in students:1
- Academic performance
- Pressure to succeed
- Post-graduation plans
- Financial concerns
- Quality of sleep
- Relationship with friends
- Relationship with family
- Overall health
- Body image
With so many different sources, it’s easy to understand why college students and stress are so closely linked with one another.
But the dangers of stress in college students unfortunately don’t end with mental health. Ashford University warns students about experiencing low energy, difficulties sleeping, more frequent illnesses, headaches, and an inability to focus in class, all of which have the potential to worsen stress for the individual.2 When pressure comes from so many places, how long before it feels insurmountable? Having to meet new friends, get good grades, and live up to the financial cost of the experience can put students on a fast track to burnout,3 which only exacerbates the original problem. This cyclical nature of stress in college students can be daunting to confront, but there are ways of overcoming it.
Overcoming Stress in College Students
Your performance in college is important, but the pursuit of good grades shouldn’t be all-consuming. Prioritizing school work over physical, mental, and social health is never a good idea – in fact, a lot of methods of dealing with stress involve setting schoolwork aside for a few moments:
- Organize your time. One of the best things you can do to help fight the effects of stress is to make sure you have enough time to do everything you need to do.4 Planning out your days to incorporate sleep, free time, and school work in healthy, workable amounts can make a huge difference. Being able to see your own ability to succeed laid out on a calendar or organizer can be a reassuring feeling!
- Maintain healthy habits. Eating healthy foods and exercising can have amazing effects on levels of stress in college students. Studies have found that students who maintain good physical activity levels are less likely to report feelings of stress and depression.5 In addition, because several of the harmful physical effects of stress are tied to blood pressure and flow, foods like fruits, fish, vegetables, and nuts can help offset those difficulties by improving these physical areas.6
- Take time for yourself. School should not be all-consuming. Schedule regular calls with friends or family to stay connected with something positive outside of the school. Engage in at least one hobby, and try to keep an open mind.
- Practice Mindfulness. Students who participate in mindfulness activities like meditation or Pilates often report that they sleep and feel better than students who don’t.7 Even the act of taking a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing can make the right kind of difference in the middle of a hectic semester.
Finding Your Focus and Staying Mindful
If your stress causes you to lose your focus, prevents you from thinking clearly, or hinders your healthy choices, you could also consider using Cognitive Boost Technology™. This unique pattern appears on the inside of every eSmartr sleeve, and stimulates nerves in the arm. Your brain will interpret these signals in a way that promotes increased mindfulness and improved focus. While this is, of course, not a “cure” for stress, by helping students to focus more strongly on their classes and studies, it can be a great aid for any kind of mindfulness or academic practice.
Stress is normal. It is a natural response to tense or frightening situations that everyone experiences. Too much stress, however, will negatively impact health, academic performance, and self-esteem. But simply acknowledging your stress and its triggers is an amazing first step to take. Once you recognize the causes and effects of your stress, you can start trying different solutions to help overcome it. Whatever you do, a healthy lifestyle and open mind are among the best places to start; even Cognitive Boost Technology, amazing as it is, works best alongside healthy, practical life choices on the part of its wearer. Above all else, remember to prioritize yourself, and ensure that you are as happy as you can be with your lifestyle, choices, and your path forward.
1. Beiter R., Nash R., McCrady M., Rhoades D., Linscomb M., Clarahan M., & Sammut S. (2015). The prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and stress in a sample of college students. Journal of Affective Disorders, 173, 90-96, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2014.10.054.
5. Dogra S., MacIntosh L., O'Neill C., D'Silva C., Shearer H., Smith K., & Côté P. (2018). The association of physical activity with depression and stress among post-secondary school students: A systematic review, Mental Health and Physical Activity, 14, 146-156, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mhpa.2017.11.001.
7. Gazzaz, Z. J., Baig, M., Al Alhendi, B. S. M., Al Suliman, M. M. O., Al Alhendi, A. S., Al-Grad, M. S. H., & Qurayshah, M. A. A. (2018). Perceived stress, reasons for and sources of stress among medical students at Rabigh Medical College, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. BMC Medical Education, 18(1). Retrieved from https://link-gale-com.library.sheridanc.on.ca/apps/doc/A528603054/AONE?u=ko_acd_shc&sid=AONE&xid=9a0650ed