You are now in college, and you are experiencing a transition in your life. With life transitions, there are many new challenges. How you deal with these challenges will determine your success at college. Very often, we do not know the type of stressors that we face and how to deal with them. During the freshman year you will encounter new life circumstances and firsts such as independent living, management of finances, and a testing of your decision-making skills (Darling, McWay, Howards, & Olmstead, 2007). The American College Health Association (ACHA) and National College Health Association (NCHA) reported in 2007 that one of the top five impediments to academic performance included stress, and in self-reported data by 23,863 college students, the ACHA and NCHA found that the number one impediment to academic impairment of a total of ten impediments was stress. In this section you will be able to determine the stressors that you may face and how to deal with them.
What Is Stress?
The UT Arlington Health Center and the University Stress Planning Group have discussed stress. Stress is a response to a demand that is placed on you. You need a certain amount of stress for action, but it is short term, and once the activity is over, you can relax. During periods of stress you experience physiological changes such as increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and muscle tension. If you are unable to return to your original state, then these physiological effects build and eventually lead to mental and physical exhaustion and illness.
In a sample of 249 undergraduate students, Misra and McKean (2000) found that time management behaviors had a greater buffering effect on academic stress than engaging in leisure activities. Freshmen and sophomore students had higher reactions to stress than juniors and seniors. A survey by the ACHA (2007) of more than 165,000 students found that 33.7% students reported stress interfered with academic performance and resulted in missing classes, receiving lower grades, and dropping courses, and stress and maladaptive coping strategies were associated with physical and mental illnesses. Ross, Niebling, and Heckert (1999) gave the Student Stress Survey to 100 students and found five major sources of stress. The five sources were change in sleeping habit, vacations/breaks, eating habits, increased workload, and new responsibilities.
Experience Inc., a for-profit provider of career services to students and alumni, did a recent survey on more than 300 students and found that many college students experience stress. Twenty-three percent of respondents reported that juggling work and school created the most stress in their lives. Scott (2009) notes that academic stress is caused by the different workload in college, challenging classes, and an independent learning structure. Freshmen face social stresses such as a new social network, less parental support, being away from home, living with a roommate, part-time jobs, and the dynamics of relationships. Other stresses include day-to-day chores, time management, and the developmental tasks of young adulthood. If not managed, stress can result in feelings of being overwhelmed, which can result in unhealthy habits like heavy drinking, weight issues, and possibility of dropping out from college.
How Can I Manage Stress?
UT Arlington provides several resources to help students manage their stress. For example, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers 6 free counseling sessions per semester and Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), a platform with more than 150 sessions related to mental health topics, including stress management. However, there are additional quick tips that can help lower stress.
Therapy Assistance Online (TAO)
UTA Counseling and Psychological Services – Scroll to the TAO section to learn more how to sign up for this service.
Quick Tips for Stress Reduction
In order to reduce stress, the following tips and techniques may be helpful (Scott, 2009):
- Create a good study space and environment.
- Decrease caffeine intake.
- Make your deadline for projects and assignments one week before the actual deadline.
- Know your learning style.
- Be optimistic.
- Develop and maintain healthy sleeping habits.
- Manage your time effectively.
- Practice visualizations on what you want to achieve.
- Maintain a good diet and exercise regularly.
In conclusion, you are in control of your destiny, so ensure that you will have a successful college experience.