Saturday, April 08, 2006

Your College Environment Could Really Make You Crazy
By Alexandra Smyth

Stress. It’s the archenemy of every college student. It lurks in dark corners, waiting for your weakest moments. Partied too late last night and now you’re cramming for your midterm at 5:00? Stress is right there with you! Is your roommate making huge messes and being unbearably noisy? Sounds like your roommate invited stress in to hang out with you! In all seriousness though, stress is a part of every college student’s life. It’s just a fact we’ve got to face. We’re living in a new environment with all sorts of contributing factors like massive amounts of school work, the temptation to party all the time, cafeteria food, living with roommates. It all adds up. It’s enough to make a person crazy! That’s why it’s so important for every college student to find techniques that help him or her to manage their stress.

So how do you manage stress? Well, first of all, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of being stressed. According to the University of Florida Counseling Center, there are four main sources of stress. These sources are: the environment, physiological sources, your thoughts, and social stressors. The University of Florida Counseling Center also lists a variety of symptoms that can be caused by these stressors, which include physiological symptoms, emotional symptoms, and cognitive symptoms. Some of the physiological symptoms include muscular tension, colds or other illnesses, high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, and ulcers. Some of the emotional symptoms include irritability, depression, anger, mood swings, and feeling overwhelmed. The cognitive symptoms include forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and unwanted thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar? If so, there’s probably a decent amount of stress in your life. Now it’s time to figure out how to manage your stress.

The University of Florida’s Counseling Center has several recommendations for ways to deal with stress. Their first recommendation is that college students try to live a balanced lifestyle. Seems like common sense, right? Well, for college students that’s not always the case. It seems like we’re being pulled in twenty different directions at one. For some students, the key to reducing stress may simply be to sit back and try to balance out all their activities, making sure that they’re getting enough sleep, food, relaxation time, and study time. Since stress affects everyone differently, this approach might not work for everyone. The next recommendation by the University of Florida Counseling Center is that students discuss the stress in their lives with an empathetic peer. For some people, simply verbalizing what is causing them stress may help them gain insight into how to deal with it or what to do about it. An empathetic peer might also have good insight into your problems. Another recommendation is that students practice relaxation techniques.

The University of Florida Counseling Center recommends that students take a course in relaxation techniques; though it a course is unavailable, they list several other options, such as setting aside 15 minutes a day to sit quietly, or going for a ten minute walk. Their final suggestion is that students clarify their values and find their life meaning. According to the University of Florida Counseling Center, many students find themselves stressed because they feel like they are directionless and without a life purpose. They suggest students focus on what they want out of life, and suggest that spirituality might help also. Of course, these are all suggestions, and not all of them will work for everybody. However, they are a start, and students can explore them and figure out what works best for them at reducing their levels of stress.

So, stress. It’s always going to be a part of college life. That’s just the way it is. Hate it all you want, it’s going to be there, waiting for you. Instead of freaking out about stress though, look into a way to deal with it. It’s much more productive than sitting in your underwear, eating Oreos instead of studying for that midterm in two hours.

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