OPINION: Stress: college students’ invisible injury

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Sometimes it feels like Sunday has been wrongfully given the luxe membership of a weekend, with some of us spending half of it as an extension of Saturday, and the other half worrying about the upcoming devil of a Monday. It’s one entire day spent recovering from and preparing for another separate day.

Since we started school, Sunday has been used for dreading and agonizing over to-do lists for Monday. This becomes even more true when what feels like three months of Sundays with family and friends by the pool is coming to a close and our mind is forced to create new to-do lists for the upcoming school year.

Does an occasional reminder like that bring stress to your mind? Do you dread the ultimate Monday that’s coming your way now that the three-month-long Sunday is almost over?

I am aware of not only how pressed for time I will be in the fall with classes, research and personal relationships, but also the fact that out of fear of compromise, each task will bring newer levels of stress, haste and frustration.

Last semester, I took on classes that made me forget how many times the sun came up between study periods. Summer felt like a breath of fresh air as I was doing research and actually enjoying it, without being accompanied by pressure.

While registering for the upcoming semester, I realized the amount of stress and tension a student can be subjected to.

“For college students, ‘back to school’ injuries experienced are often invisible; however, these are the kind of silent injuries that can be life altering,” Carol J. Scott, M.D., said in The Huffington Post article, “Back to school stressors – Invisible indicators in the lives of college students.”

Although you never fully get used to the continuous uphill climb that is college, it seems with each year your body becomes more accustomed to the emotional and mental beating it will be enduring.

“Students who withdraw during first semester often cite emotional reasons for dropping out,” Scott said. “Clearly some students are better able to adjust to the undergraduate experience than are others.”

The anxiety of performance, keeping up grades, goal setting, competing with fellow students and the pressure of impending deadlines can certainly have its emotional toll on students.

Such emotional distress has the potential to not only affect students’ academics, but their well-being as a whole.

According an American College Heath Association study published in March 2008, “25.6 percent of male college students and 31.7 percent of female students reported that on at least one occasion in the last year, they had felt so depressed it was difficult to function.”

In Melissa Cohen’s Learn Psychology article, “Student guide to surviving stress and anxiety in college and beyond,” she details five leading causes of stress in college students: living away from home, academic demands, test anxiety, finances and post-graduation plans.

“Everything is different (in college) – the food, the people and the living accommodations,” Cohen said. “Even though most students eventually get used to these new things without a problem, the first few weeks of college can create a stressful environment.”

If you feel that you are drowning in stress, UF Counseling and Wellness Center suggests:

  • Developing a balanced lifestyle
  • Gaining perspective by discussing problems
  • Using specific relaxing techniques
  • Clarifying your values and develop a sense of life meaning

Wenkai Fu, a graduate student in nuclear engineering, said that although a lot of work needs to be done in his research group in addition to his studies, he is looking forward to the new semester and learning further ahead at K-State.

In my opinion, Fu’s mindset is one that all college students should adopt when heading back to school. While stress is inevitable, its negative effects don’t have to be.

Just know that between rough days lie fleeting moments of fun and games, and just like two days of weekends for five days of labor, hard work may not involve relaxation, but it certainly defines it.

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