OPINION: The importance of managing stress as a college student

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Brandon Sarmiento

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Maya Morales, Reporter

College students often deal with high levels of stress and anxiety. This can be due to factors such as college being a new experience, moving to new areas and taking on new responsibilities. Meeting other students, balancing classes, maintaining a social life and reaching financial responsibilities are also influencing factors of stress. According to a 2022 American College Health Association study, 49.3% of college students experienced moderate stress levels, while 29.5% faced high stress levels.

Many students may also experience a rise in stress levels during periods like midterms and finals week, as well as when competing for academic internships or preparing to meet financial matters to pay for school. It is during these times that it may be hard to remember to take breaks.

“Stress is there for a reason. It’s there to help mobilize you to meet the demands of your day, but you’re also supposed to have times where you do shut down and relax and repair and restore,” said Northwestern University education professor Emma K. Adam, according to a 2020 article in U.S. News & World Report.

Increased stress levels can leave students feeling unmotivated to attend class or finish assignments. According to the Learning Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, increased stress levels can also lead to shorter attention spans and major health issues. High levels of stress that last for long periods may also result in a person being at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and anxiety.

Some students are also more prone to developing high stress levels.

“One thing to keep in mind about the people who are at the greatest risk, are the people who have a strong family history of family depression or anxiety, or other psychiatric disorders in their family,” stated Robert Barger, a psychiatrist with the Veterans Health Administration. “Or the other thing is if the individual has had previous moments of depression, that could result in the risk of clinical depression.”

There are several ways to help handle stress. Promoting therapy, healthy eating habits, good sleep patterns, exercising daily and creating goals are all different ways that people help manage their stress.

“If someone is starting to struggle around finals or the holidays, they should try to get in with a counselor to get that extra support,” suggested Barger. He suggested that talk therapy can improve stress by identifying why the person is feeling the way they are, and forming a plan to do something about it.

Personally, this semester was challenging for me. I felt like my workload had increased tenfold over the usual amount. It was hard trying to figure out a routine where I had time to do everything that I had to complete in a day. I was trying to balance an extremely busy class schedule with a job that had long hours.

There was one online resource that CSUN launched this semester that helped me balance out my schedule, which kept in mind other activities on my plate, so I didn’t burnout fast. I signed up for YOU@CSUN and selected the issues I struggled with once school started. The platform gave me reminders on when to take time for myself and would send me alerts when certain events that may benefit me were happening on campus. It made me feel more connected to campus and gave me a chance to take a step back from my assignments.

It is hard to take a step back when there are so many deadlines to meet. As students, we want so badly to perform well in school, assuming we haven’t burned out yet. If we have burned out, there’s no motivation to do any assignments or care about the outcome. We just want a break. I feel that if we were more educated on how to take care of ourselves mentally and emotionally, then we would give ourselves more of a chance to do something about such stress.

“Education is key to emphasizing the importance of stress relief. That even during finals, you need to budget your time. You need to allow yourself time to eat, have some exercise, and also budget in sleep. We should start talking about mental health in our general health education,” Barger stated.

If we began educating people while they were younger to recognize the signs of declining mental health and ways to treat it, we could help people reach out for the assistance they need faster. Such education would teach people how to handle stress by finding different healthy ways to cope with it.