Leaving home for the first time and going away for school can be very difficult for some people. In many cases for college freshman this is their first time being away from their home and parents. Many times they get home sick and want to isolate themselves. They have to get into a new routine of going to school, and change can be very difficult. It is definitely hard to get into the swing of college. They have to navigate through classes in a new format while living away from all the comforts of parents.
A college student’s life usually consists of attending classes, long hours of studying, working at a job (sometimes), and having a social life. Some students work at a job or study harder than others, but they are all trying to get degrees so maybe one day they will have meaningful and significant lives. It is a constant struggle for everyone who is trying desperately to make him or herself into a success. And every college student wants to be involved with something in order to further their education, or just have fun. There are lots of new opportunities out there.
The struggle consists of demands on time, financial pressures, parental pressure and conflicts, interpersonal conflicts, managing freedom, peer and academic pressure and the transitional period to a new academic environment (Stanford University 4). All of these factors combined can cause emotional disturbances and one of the most common is stress. Stress is what you feel when you are worried or uncomfortable about something. This worry in your mind can make your body feel bad. You may feel angry, frustrated, scared, or afraid. These feeling can also lead to you having a stomachache or a headache.
When you’re stressed you may not feel like sleeping or eating. You also may feel cranky or have trouble paying attention at school and remembering things. Having a little stress can be good sometimes, but when you’re in college that is defiantly something you want to keep under control. Another reason for stress is the financial strain a person can experience when trying to progress in school. Learning to budget money is one of the most realistic lessons of attending college. This is one more way a student may feel vulnerable. Financial pressure is the number one reason why students drop out.
A college student may become distracted with work in order to live comfortably or just merely survive. School can suffer because of time and energy invested towards holding down a job. Then there’s the school work. Academic pressure is an obvious and much talked about stressor in the lives of college students. First, the student must decide what they are going to study. That course of study is a deciding factor of what they will be doing for the rest of their lives. Or at least that is how it feels when deciding. This can be an overwhelming feeling for many young adults.
One of the greatest influences of academic pressure is what grade a student receives in any given class. If the grade is not good enough, it can lead to disappointment. Many students experience setbacks and failures. These can lead to self-analyzing and a negative self-image (Struthers 75). There are many people afraid of failure, and when put into that situation it can lead to something else besides stress. Stress goes on to becoming depression. Depression has been nicknamed the “common cold” of mental disorders. Depression affects over 19 million Americans in any given year (NIMH).
Depression does not discriminate. It can affect anyone at anytime of their life, though young adults are prime candidates for depressive episodes. “Among young adults, 15 to 24 year olds are most likely to have major depressive episodes” (Hudd vol. 34). Young adults of that age are crossing the bridge from childhood to adulthood and learning how to face and deal with real life issues. The words college life and depression are not easily associated with one another, yet 78 percent of college students will show symptoms of depression in any given year and of these 46 percent will seek professional help (NIMH).
Depression is different from than just having the blues? or feeling sad for a few days. The symptoms are severe and can be life disrupting. Some of the symptoms are unhappy mood most of the day, loss of enjoyment that once brought joy, change in weight and appetite, change in sleeping patterns, feeling tired all the time, feeling agitated or restless, change in personality and alcohol or drug abuse. “Depression is a disturbance in our moods; it is characterized by our feeling particularly unhappy, lonely, discouraged, negative about one or more aspects or ourselves, and often by our thinking that others are thinking negatively about us” (Ross, Vol. 33, Issue 2).
There are also different levels of depression which range from mild to severe. Mild depression is expressed in depressed or sad moods that are brief in duration and have little effect on everyday activities. The more moderate to severe episodes are more long lasting. They interfere with academic work, social relationships and how a person can see him or herself. If depression reaches its pinnacle, it could lead to suicidal thoughts or possible suicide attempts.
There are a variety of explanations as to why so many college students become depressed. One of the most common causes is separation from family. The transition from a family setting to a college environment is a major step. “They come into a highly performance based academic setting, leaving behind a normal support base. It’s like they are being transplanted into to an alien planet” (Hudd vol. 34) Students can feel isolated compared to the family setting or familiar surroundings. Many students believe that the college life is filled with less rules and more carefree days.
The reality is that there is much more responsibility and may feel inadequate about solving real life problems and issues which they have never been faced with before. College life may also lead to failure and rejection, which can leave the student feeling vulnerable. When students start to feel vulnerable they turn to other things to help them feel better such as alcohol and other drugs. Many college students feel that getting intoxicated and being under the influence of a narcotic well help them feel better about being stressed or depressed. Sometimes the stress comes first and people try drugs as a way to escape it.
In the long run, drugs or alcohol just make things worse. It shows that 75% of the college students drink or do drugs due to the fact that they are under a lot of pressure dealing with school. Drinking to cope with the stressors of everyday life is prevalent among college students. According to Park & Levenson drinking among college students is related to much higher levels of alcohol consumption, and episodes of heavy drinking. In addition to drinking to cope with stress or to reduce tension, most college students drink due to the normative aspect of drinking in our society.
While many would dismiss college drinking as “part of the experience” what is disturbing is that the research shows that many of the students who drink to cope do not “mature out” of their heavy drinking. This obviously has negative repercussions for the futures of these students. Stress is considered a major contributor to the initiation and continuation of AOD use as well as to relapse (AMA). Many studies that have demonstrated an association between AOD use and stress have been unable to establish a causal relationship between the two.
However, stress and the body’s response to it most likely play a role in the vulnerability to initial AOD use, initiation of AOD abuse treatment, and relapse in recovering AOD users (AMA). So when students are really stressed out they should find alternatives to reducing their stress. Students react to college in a variety of ways. For some students, college is stressful because it is an abrupt change from high school. For others, separation from home is a source of stress. Although some stress is necessary for personal growth to occur, the amount of stress can overwhelm a student and affect the ability to cope.
Students should first try to cope with their problems or talk with someone. When this does not work they should seek alternative help with dealing with their stress and depression. Students should try their best to be more open-minded about college and making changes. Reactive coping, that is, dealing with one’s own thoughts and feelings, can be facilitated by accessible professional and peer counseling, student support groups, and adequate faculty advising. Active coping, that is, dealing with the actual stressful situations or events, can be strengthened by providing students with early success.
In adjusting to the stressful situations and the independent lifestyle of a college students should keep in mind three important concepts consequences, change, and cooperation. Every decision they make will have certain consequences. Even though the decisions they make will be up to them, the results aren’t always as easily controlled. Whenever students find themselves facing a decision, they should think it through. Carefully consider the options and the consequences before they move forward, and their new independence should be manageable. Effective stress management includes healthy diet and exercise habits.
Exercising can help students by giving them a break from the mental and emotional strain that they experience while helping to reduce physical tension. It will also increase their stamina and overall physical well-being. In addition minimize such behaviors as overeating, excessive drinking, smoking, or using mood altering drugs. All of these are damaging to your health. Also, don’t overwork yourself. All work and no play can cause you to feel stressed out, irritable and less motivated to study. Schedule time for rest, social activities, recreation and relaxation.
With good health habits and effective techniques for coping with stress, you will be better able to handle the stressful situations that you encounter. It is important to remember the key fact that things change. If students are unhappy at first with their life as a college student, they should not give up. With each passing day, some of the hard new edges of the unfamiliar collegiate life will begin to smooth out. Many changes are under your control and the ability to adapt to change provides a great opportunity to learn skills for coping with stress.
Taking advantage of the cooperation and resources that can be found on campus is also another factor in controlling stress. There are offices to assist you with the academic, financial, and personal concerns common to college students. Although students may feel isolated sometimes, they do not have to feel alone. Having stress can be a good thing sometimes, but students have to learn how to cope with it. If they do that they will be just fine. Stress is necessary to challenge students to learn. Approaches are needed that reduce the negative aspects of stress (distress) which lessen students’ learning and performance (Stanford University 4).
The key to reducing distress is providing students with a feeling of control over their education, information about what to expect, and feedback regarding what can be done to improve their performance. Students who do not feel helpless will adopt their own coping strategies. Students shouldn’t let their college years distress you. Recognize situations that may cause stress, develop effective ways to manage stress and seek help if you need it. Work Citied Page Alcohol and other drug abuse. 30 Nov. 2004. American Medical Association. 6 Dec. 2004 < http://www. ama. org/ama/pub/category/3337.
html>. Hudd, Suzanne S. “Stress at College Effects on Health Habits, Health Status and Self-Esteem. ” College Student Journal. June (2000). Vol. 34, Issue 2 Ross, Shannon E. “Sources of Stress Among College Students. ” College Student Journal June (1999). Vol. 33, Issue 2 Stanford University. “Coping With Stress. ” http://www. Ieland. Standford. edu/group/cawell/srticles/stressarticle. html Struthers, C. Ward. “An Examination of the Relationship Among Academic Stress, Coping, Motivation, and Performance in College. ” Research in Higher Education. Oct (2000). Vol. 41 Issue 5, p581.