College students stumble through stressful times

Amy Reinhardt

Walking through the halls paralyzed with the fear of knowing that you haven’t completed an assignment or studied hard enough for an exam. This is a pattern that unfolds for every student: they begin the semester with a pep in their step, but as weeks turn into months they begin to feel the pinch from piling deadlines and overwhelming commitments.

According to the University of Florida Counseling & Wellness Center, the accumulation of stress is a battle that every college student fights through, especially toward finals week. With hectic schedules and building pressure to succeed, it can be difficult for students to relieve the anxiety.

To most, stress is perceived with a negative connotation. Most people visualize someone having a mental breakdown or scarfing down fast food. However, stress can come in good and bad forms

The campusmindswork mental health website defines stress as anything that alters one’s natural balance, and says stress can stem from external and internal triggers

External can be anything that appears outside the body like getting a bad grade, breaking up with a significant other or moving into a new apartment. Internal is anything that happens within, like putting a substantial amount of pressure on oneself.

In the mind of Tori Davis, senior marketing and management major, there are two types of stress: positive and negative.

“The beginning of the semester is filled with positive stress because you need to know how to multitask and stick to deadlines,” Davis said. “But toward the end of the semester it transforms into negative stress because all the deadlines become the same.”

Davis has taken on a very high stress-induced load this semester, but said Success Week was the most stressful time she’s faced all year.

“Every day I had two presentations and a paper or report due, and they weren’t small reports either,” Davis said.

Despite the fact that Success Week is designed as a break for students to prepare for finals, it seems to cause even more stress.

“I would prefer to take a test over giving a presentation,” Davis said. “For a test you have a time frame to study the material, but a presentation or 50-page report has no time frame and you often don’t meet the deadlines you set for yourself.”

Each person has one or more classes that are the source of their stress each semester. For Davis, it was Strategic Management that won the award for being her toughest course.

“I have to devote several hours per day and per week in order to achieve the success I want, which cuts down on the time I have for my other courses,” Davis said.

Christina Foreman, senior marketing, management and entrepreneurship major, identified her most stressful endeavor as her involvement in the Pitch Competition in fall 2015.

“The finals round was very stressful in regards to the relationships I had with people,” Foreman said. “It was tough for me to be at odds and butt heads with other people.”

The majority of the stress in college appears during the last couple years as students prepare for graduation and the impending transition. Most freshmen are still adjusting to the feel of college during their initial year.

Mady Mooradian, freshman education major, said she’s rarely become fully stressed during her first year at Washburn. Her most stressful experience was meeting with her academic adviser to plan the next few semesters.

“Exercising, especially running, has been something I’ve turned to this semester to help relieve any stress that I do deal with,” Mooradian said.

Running has been an activity that Davis turned to in hopes of eliminating stress. Before the month of April, Davis was committed to running in the rec center every other day. However, this commitment ended after finals preparation began.

“Our professors have so much they need to teach in a very short period of time, which causes the workload we’re given to be unattainable,” Davis said.

According to the University Health Center, college students get on average six hours of sleep per night, when eight hours is what is recommended for proper function during the day.

“Stress can really take a toll on your body, especially when it messes with your sleep schedule, which in turn messes up the next day and causes a change in your attitude,” said Alex Laughlin, junior theatre and art major.

After getting through with classes, work and dinner, Davis said she is typically up working on homework until midnight. Davis forces herself to get eight hours of sleep each night even if it cuts down on her time to do an assignment.

“My mental and physical health is more important to me than any school assignment or project,” Davis said.

A few other outlets that serve as stress relievers for Davis are getting manicures, eating ice cream and painting. Davis said she’s not a professional painter, but she enjoys replicating abstract images she finds on Pinterest.

“Painting distracts me from the real world and allows my mind to go to a very narrow and focused mindset of trying to paint a straight line or mix two colors,” Davis said.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise is noted as one of the best outlets when it comes to relieving stress. Foreman and Slater Champlin, senior forensic chemical science major, each prefer their own method of exercise.

Foreman goes to the rec center and bikes really hard and fast to relieve her stress. Champlin, on the other hand, has been swimming since he was 8 years old.

“I get to literally cool off in the water and spend that time thinking about what’s going on in my life,” Champlin said.

In addition to exercise, Foreman said she tries to eat healthy by increasing her vegetable consumption. She said she tries to sleep the normal amount, but sometimes that doesn’t happen, especially this semester.

“When you’re putting good stuff into your body, generally you feel better and increase your mental and physical health,” Foreman said.

According to Everyday Health, one of the many stress relievers is emotional support. Every student needs someone to turn to during the low points of college, and some students have found people on campus to rely on.

“I have to make sure I’m interacting with people constantly,” Laughlin said. “You do all this work and get so stressed that you need to take a break and hang out with friends before getting back to work.”

Greek Life and other student organizations have served as ways for students to meet new people. Champlin is a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, and Foreman is a member of Young Life, which is a Christian organization.

“I have had more heart-to-hearts with my fraternity brothers than most people I know,” Champlin said.

Foreman said it’s nice to know that there are people who know exactly what she’s going through.

Parents are also a consistent answer for emotional support among students because of the unconditional love and support they provide.

“I am the sixth child out of seven so my mom and dad have seen it all,” Foreman said. “I can go to them and yell, cry and beat my hands on the table and know that they’re still going to love me and have the advice that I need.”

Davis said she thinks it’s hard to turn to classmates sometimes because they’re dealing with the same issues and can’t really simply listen without making their problems seem more significant.

“I turn to my parents immediately because they know how to just listen and sympathize and then offer advice,” Davis said.

Even with the help of crucial emotional support, it can still be difficult for students to disconnect themselves from the negative effects that stress creates.

“I’m typically reclusive if it’s a high stress situation that I’m dealing with,” Champlin said. “I’m not in a great mood and I don’t want to put other people down so I just try to avoid everyone.”

Champlin hasn’t been able to visit home in Concordia, Kansas since Christmas break due to his chaotic schedule. During fall 2015, Champlin was saddled with two jobs and 16 credit hours. Then in spring 2016 his load increased to 18 credit hours and his employment increased to three jobs.

Not everyone isolates themselves when stressful times emerge. There are some people who view work as a chance to be productive, and these people resist the urge to allow stress to alter their attitude toward life.

“I’m the kind of guy who looks at the brighter side of things. So I try to find the small things to really appreciate,” Laughlin said.

Although they’re challenging at the time, stressful moments in college can provide a growing experience. Laughlin said that his time management skills have been greatly improved due to his theatre involvement.

Laughlin was cast in a major play while taking numerous theatre classes that required him to memorize monologues and scenes.

“I’ve gained a lot more knowledge of how to deal with professors and how to deal with all the work coming toward me,” Laughlin said. “I’ve found more social ways to deal with it instead of putting it off.”