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The College Students’ Guide to Major Stressors and Coping Mechanisms

Written by CB Community

College is the initial gateway to stress-related sensations; it is, indeed, a pathway to adulthood. According to the National College Health Assessment (NCHA), only about 1.6% of undergraduates report feeling no stress whatsoever (in the last 12 months).

The other 98.4% aren’t that lucky. In fact, more than 45% of college students stated they experience more than average stress.

In comparison, 87% of students reported feeling overwhelmed at least once in the previous year due to the volume of their college assignments.

It is safe to say, the strain of the fast-paced contemporary world has left its mark.

Although short-term stress can help with exceptional written and/or verbal academic performance (when needed), long-term stress is a looming consequence for our country’s bright future.

The ability to manage stress is key to personal well-being and academic success. This is the college students’ guide to major stressors and coping mechanisms. We’re glad you’re here.

Defining Stress

So, how do we define stress, and how does it define us?

From college relationships to academic achievement, the emotional apparatus is overwhelmed by all the stimuli young adulthood brings.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 80% of college students experience stress daily.

New responsibilities, environment, expansion of social circles, and a newly formed pattern of time distribution often lead to heightened anxiety levels.

It is in our nature to disapprove of novelties, after all.

Stress is an involuntary, natural reaction to an individual’s emotions. Both negative (exams, break-ups) and positive (parties, academic success, being in love) are known to cause stress.

Learning to cope with an influx of new positive or negative experiences will lead to a balanced academic life.

Categorizing Stress Levels

We’re not here to talk about the adrenal gland today, but the subject sort of imposes itself due to the very nature of our topic.

When you’re young, you don’t really cognize or elaborate on the benevolently given input; you’re young, life is ahead of you, and you have all the time in the world to think about hypothetical consequences – if and when they occur.

The adrenal glands produce hormones that regulate our immune system, metabolism, blood pressure, and ability to respond to stress.

According to Mayo Clinic reports, expected effects of stress include restlessness, irritability, and depression.

Upset stomachs, insomnia, headaches, and exhaustion are also comorbidities. Any hormonal disharmony derives from these three types of stress:

  • Acute stress: known as the most common form, it’s a result of accumulated day-to-day stressors: running late to class, sleeping in, and poor grades; Luckily, this mild form leaves little to no consequences on your physical and mental health.
  • Episodic acute stress: if you disregard the initial signals, acute stress will turn into an acute spree. Much like Netflix, the stress will broadcast episodes, followed by a myriad of symptoms, including headaches, gastrointestinal issues, heartburn, possible panic attacks, and muscle tension.
  • Chronic acute stress: giving in after long-term stress. Students struggling with passing an exam (or scoring high) may experience chronic, acute stress, followed by a change in appetite, low energy, insomnia, social behavior, and emotional responses in interpersonal relationships.

The Pain of Growing Up

Our college students’ guide to major stressors and coping mechanisms declares homesickness a natural response to gaining independence.

Growth equals unforeseen discomfort. The process of learning how to take care of yourself will most likely induce feelings of loneliness and sadness.

Being away from your pillars of support (your family, childhood/high school friends, or your long-distance romantic relationship) is a buffet of potential sorrows.

Not only will reflecting and articulating your struggles improve existing relationships, but it will also make room for social growth. The “betrayal syndrome” is strong once you leave home.

Understanding the importance of your “empirical family” will ease the transition and make you feel less alone. The world is your oyster, and the people you meet might be your pearl.

Stress Leads to Addiction

Behavioral symptoms in students struggling with stress include erratic sleep patterns, binge-eating/loss of appetite, and alcohol or drug use.

Many individuals lead a seemingly ordinary college life, despite their substance abuse. The reality is that it’s tough to recognize if someone’s struggling with addiction.

The best way to cope with this particular stress “side effect” is to seek help and support.

Additionally, if you are the one trying to help a friend with addiction, the best you can do is offer support and understanding.

However, helping a friend with addiction issues could also be a significant trigger for the bystander, as it forces the individual not only to stay lucid but also transform into a nurturing grown-up persona, leading to premature development of their personality.

Financial Struggles

Around 70% of college students report financial stress. Many young individuals work while in college to afford tuition, meal plans, textbooks, and other general expenses.

Financial strains take a toll on even the most resilient students due to overwhelming stimuli of over-engaging, making ends meet, and, to put it in modern terms, FOMO.

For students forced to work part-time and calculate their academic budget, the chance of dropping out of college increases by the minute.

The education you receive can make or break your future career. Speaking to your financial aid office to see whether you’re a candidate for loans or grants could alleviate the stress.

Post-Graduation Anticipation

“What’s next?” is the haunting question of all graduates. The post-graduation disorder can leave you physically, mentally, and emotionally drained if you decide to delve into it.

Finding healthy coping mechanisms is critical. Facing your rumination about the future with a trusted advisor is the best way to debunk the doom and gloom premise about leaving your soon-to-be past behind.

Billions have done it. So can you.

Final Thoughts

Our final college students’ guide to major stressors and coping mechanisms tip: prioritizing self-care as your most critical college course will help you navigate the hallways of stress and anxiety.

Proper rest, staying active, and having a healthy stress outlet will bring the puzzle together.

You can do this!

About the author

CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.