Dealing and coping with college stress

I enjoy studying and learning new things every day and every minute—I don’t mind continually challenging myself. However, with all of that curiosity and drive to study comes tension, far too much stress, particularly in college. There is simply too much pressure—pressure to do well, pressure to excel, pressure to complete projects on time.

This semester, I took a tremendously difficult class—so difficult that I wept myself to sleep believing I was going to flunk it. I couldn’t let myself fail this class because, while being the most difficult, it was also my favorite, thus I was in excruciating pain. I recall writing an email to my professor following the second exam, whining about how hard the class is and how much effort I’m putting in, but nothing seems to work. I was really vulnerable in the email, especially because I was writing it after an emotionally charged event. It’s finals week as I write this, and there’s a lot of anxiety for every class, not just this one. I couldn’t even feel my breath before the weekend because I expect so much from myself and nothing less.

In the depths of my anxiousness, I had to remember to breathe, to inhale and exhale and experience every breath. I had to gather my thoughts and tell myself that everything would be fine. I also needed to remind myself that it’s acceptable to fail. Failure is not always a terrible thing; it simply means that you need to put in more effort or alter strategies—you must be flexible.

How prevalent is college stress?

 According to the American Institute of Stress, stress is an epidemic among college students. It’s quite common. 8 out of 10 college students report high levels of stress. Often, the physical and mental difficulties of studying rise in direct proportion to an individual’s progress toward their academic goals. Students are not only expected to manage an increased academic load, but also to operate socially, plan financially, and adjust to living with roommates or away from home for the first time. American Addiction Centers’ infographics depict a breakdown of college stress by majors and most stressful factors.

According to research, stress can contribute to the development of a variety of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Additionally, it might result in the onset of physical ailments such as chronic pain. Stress hormone floods can make people more susceptible to depression, particularly harried college students. Anxiety is characterized by physical symptoms such as muscle tension and tremor, as well as racing thoughts, feelings of impending doom, fear, excessive concern, and anger. Anxiety and sleep disorders frequently coexist. Anxiety and depression can be caused or exacerbated by sleep issues, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and vice versa. Some students use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress; nevertheless, these risky coping techniques can lead to substance abuse. According to a 2018 study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 28% of college students had indulged in binge drinking in the two weeks preceding the survey. Some students may develop chronic physical illnesses as a result of stress, such as chronic neck aches, backaches, stomach aches, and headaches. To relax your body and remove muscular tension, the National Institutes of Health recommends practicing yoga and meditation.

Some common ways to manage stress in college

Get enough sleep—staying up all night studying or doing whatever isn’t going to help. It is usual for students to remain awake all night to study. Staying up all night to study is one of the most detrimental things a student can do to their academics. Two MIT professors discovered a link between sleep and test scores in October of 2019: the less students slept during the semester, the lower their scores. As a result, get adequate sleep—you’ll perform much better when you’re not weary mentally or physically.

Remember to eat healthy and to exercise. Regular exercise keeps your body healthy by releasing endorphins and improving your general cognitive capacities. Exercise can even assist you in falling asleep, reducing stress. Remember that exercise does not have to be difficult; yoga, brief walks, and stretching can all provide significant mental health benefits and help relieve tension.

Above all, avoid procrastination. It may feel amazing at the time, but it frequently leads to stress. You may avoid spending all night catching up on assignments by managing your time carefully. Also, discover your stress outlet and use it as frequently as possible. It could be having regular massages, spending time with friends and family, or taking a long drive while listening to the loudest music possible—dahh!

Personally, I deal with college anxiety and stress by getting adequate sleep, exercising, meditating, and eating a balanced diet—when I do these things, my body is capable of dealing with anything else psychologically. Additionally, I enjoy going out to dance or staying-in to dance, especially when my head is cluttered with so much to do. Dancing helps me in regulating my emotions, which improves my energy and helps me maintain a balanced frequency and vibration.

Along with self-help, institutions offer on-campus mental health services such as counseling clinics, online screening, and individual or group counseling. Using these services can help you improve your mental health, allowing you to thrive academically and socially. Check your school’s website for more information or reach out to any department and they will point you in the right direction.

Remember, if you ignore your stress for too long, it can quickly progress to depression and anxiety. Remember to take of yourself.

References

The Student’s Guide to Managing Stress | BestColleges. (2021, October 22). BestColleges.Com; http://www.bestcolleges.com. https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/balancing-stress/

The Impact of Sleep on Learning and Memory | Chronobiology and Sleep Institute | Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. (n.d.). The Impact of Sleep on Learning and Memory | Chronobiology and Sleep Institute | Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; http://www.med.upenn.edu. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from https://www.med.upenn.edu/csi/the-impact-of-sleep-on-learning-and-memory.html

School Stress for College Students and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms. (n.d.). School Stress for College Students and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms; americanaddictioncenters.org. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/learn/college-coping-mechanisms/

Heckman, W. (2019, September 6). Stress: An Epidemic Among College Students – The American Institute of Stress. The American Institute of Stress; http://www.stress.org. https://www.stress.org/stress-an-epidemic-among-college-students

Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2018 | National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, September 13). National Institute on Drug Abuse; nida.nih.gov. https://nida.nih.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/drug-alcohol-use-in-college-age-adults-in-2018

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Quote of the day

It’s important to recognize that you’re only human and can’t possibly please everyone. Saying yes to everything puts you at risk of burnout and is detrimental to your physical and emotional health. 

DMK

Quote of the day

You know that feeling that you’re okay, or perhaps that everything will be okay. It’s more like you don’t fight something over which you have no control. You accept what is, but you never fail to make an effort to improve the situation.

DMK

Quote of the day

I believed that prioritizing one’s own needs over those of others was selfish and unethical; certainly, acting differently would guilt-trip me. It took me some time to realize that taking care of myself is perfectly acceptable.

DMK

What is compassion?

Compassion entails empathizing with another person’s suffering and wishing to do everything in one’s power to alleviate that suffering. Compassion literally translates as “to suffer with another person.” It is defined by emotion researchers as the emotion that occurs when one is confronted with another’s pain and feels driven to alleviate that suffering.

Despite the fact that the ideas are related, compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism. In contrast to empathy, which refers to our ability to understand and experience the emotions of another person, compassion is defined as when those feelings and ideas are accompanied by a desire to assist that individual. While compassion can be felt without resulting in action, altruism is the kind, selfless activity that is typically triggered by such feelings. However, compassion can be felt without resulting in action, and altruism is not necessarily driven by compassion.

Scientists have begun to trace the biological foundation of compassion, which suggests that it serves a deeper evolutionary purpose than many people realize. Cynics may dismiss compassion as sentimental or irrational. Researchers have discovered that when we feel compassion, our pulse slows down, we release the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and parts of the brain associated with empathy, caregiving, and pleasure light up, which frequently leads in our desire to engage and care for other people.

Types of Compassion

Compassion frequently manifests itself in one of two ways, each of which differs depending on where the feelings are aimed. Compassion for others is a virtue. In order to have compassion for other people, you must first understand their suffering and then work to find a strategy to alleviate that suffering. As a result of these feelings, you are compelled to take action and do everything in your power to improve the situation.

The other is Self-Compassion— Compassion for oneself means treating oneself with the same level of kindness and compassion that one would exhibit to a friend or family member. When you’re not berating yourself for past transgressions, you’re accepting of who you are and your imperfections. 

Compassion Fatigue

Nonetheless, It is possible that continual exposure to the suffering of others will result in what is known as compassion fatigue, which is a severe side effect of compassion. The term “vicarious traumatization” or “secondary traumatization” is also used (Figley, 1995). Working with folks who are suffering from the aftereffects of traumatic experiences can leave an emotional residue or pressure on the individual. It is distinct from burnout, but the two conditions can coexist. Compassion Fatigue can emerge as a result of exposure to a single case or as a result of a “cumulative” level of trauma experienced by a group of people.

Compassion fatigue is that feeling that you have– no more empathy left to give.

When Mother Teresa wrote to her superiors about her plans for the nuns, she made it clear that they were required to take a year off every four or five years so that they might recuperate from the stress of their care-giving responsibilities. She deeply understood the manifestations of Compassion fatigue.

According to F. Oshberg, MD, the first thing you should grasp is that it is a process. Not only do you wake up fatigued and devoid of any physical or emotional energy on one day, but you also wake up exhausted and devoid of any physical or emotional vitality on the next day. Compassion fatigue develops gradually over time, requiring weeks or even years to manifest itself. For most people, it’s an inability to see the good in others, whether you work at home or in an office. Through over-utilization of your compassion skills, your capacity to experience and care for others gradually deteriorates. You might also suffer emotional blunting, which is when you react to things in a way that is different from what you would expect.

References

Kindness Combats Compassion Fatigue – Think Kindness. (2014, September 15). Think Kindness. https://thinkkindness.org/uncategorized/kindness-combats-compassion-fatigue/#:~:text=Mother%20Teresa%20advocated%20strongly%20for,effects%20of%20their%20caregiving%20work..

Compassion Fatigue: Watch for These Warning Signs | Banner. (2021, June 11). https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/watch-for-these-key-warning-signs-of-compassion-fatigue#:

Boyd, D. (2017, January 4). Compassion Fatigue. The American Institute of Stress. https://www.stress.org/military/for-practitionersleaders/compassion-fatigue.

What Is Compassion?. (2021, November 1). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-compassion-5207366.

Compassion Definition | What Is Compassion. (n.d.). Greater Good. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/compassion/definition.