Stressful Situations Confront Students

Marissa DeCuir
The Daily Reveille

For a typical college student, stress often is the result of a quick pile up of school work, job duties, extracurricular activities and relationship problems. Many students turn to food, drugs or alcohol as medication. But these habits can lead to a lack of concentration and severe health problems such as heart disease and anxiety attacks.

But the important thing for students to keep in mind is that stress is a problem that afflicts everyone, not just a certain few.

Seventy-five percent of college students feel overwhelmed, according to a recent American College Health Association survey.

Amy Cavender, coordinator for the University’s Wellness Education Department, said stress management is one of the most popular programs at the University.

Cavender said the college years are the first opportunity students get to experience the full range of stressful situations.

“For a lot of students, this is the first time they will have other pressures outside of academics,” Cavender said. “Home-sickness is a real phenomenon.”

Dorothy Morgan, counselor and coordinator for the Center for Freshman Year, has advised many stressed-out freshmen and said some first year students have very little confidence that they will complete all of their obligations.

“Some are used to making a 4.0,” Morgan said. “When they make that first D, they take it very hard.”

When overwhelmed, students may develop feelings of loneliness and depression, which can lead to additional problems such as anxiety attacks.

Instead of seeking help from professionals, family members or friends, some students choose their own forms of medication.

Autumn Douglas, registered dietician for the Wellness Education Department, said binge eating — or over-consuming food in certain time period — is a problem for college students. Food serves as a replacement for advice from family members or friends.

Douglas said people lose weight when under stress because the body builds up adrenaline and burns up nutrients. She said the problem is that some students tend to eat more to balance this out, which can result in eating disorders.

Douglas said many students also eat because of nervousness. She prevents herself from doing this by crocheting.

“Using the hands for other activities will help calm nerves,” Douglas said. “You will be less likely to eat something.”

But, food is not the only form of comfort students reach towards.

Forty-two percent of college students have taken or are taking some type of drug, according to the ACHA survey.

Cavender said trying to medicate oneself can result in addiction, health problems — like heart disease, skin rashes and weakened immune systems — or even death.

“People need to realize the stakes,” she said. “You can die sooner, and that’s scary.”

Cavender said many students also use alcohol as a stress medicine, but this will only compound stress by pushing other responsibilities further back.

But she said there are ways to control stress. Cavender recommends that students participate in any sport or exercise they enjoy, meditate or even get a massage. But Morgan has a different game plan.

“There is nothing on this campus that can’t be fixed or changed,” Morgan said. “I handle stress with a lot of joking.”

Both Cavender and Morgan said they advise students to seek help from their family, friends or instructors. The Mental Health Center also offers counseling for students.

Students can contact the Wellness Education Department by phone at 578-5718 or through e-mail at [email protected]