Monday, March 24, 2008

College Stress

It’s Just Too Hard?
By Jeni Carbonara

Lately, it seems that college has been painted as less of an idyllic time in adolescent life and more like some Zimbardo prison experiment in which the students’ dorms and responsibilities are veritable breeding grounds for stress-induced insanity.

The University of Florida Counseling Center cites numerous physical and mental maladies associated with stress, including insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, ulcers, and forgetfulness and relates them to the stresses associated with college. This correlation makes college seem like a tried-and-true formula for the physical and mental deterioration of the youth of America. But is it really?

The picture of college is painted so that it appears that before unloading their books and risqué posters in their dorm rooms, college students lived in a bubble that was stress-free and pleasant. This is not the case. For many students, the pressure of high school was just as great, if not greater, than the stresses from college. (Let us not forget the dreaded SAT examinations, applying to schools, and parental rebellion each student suffers through in his or her pre-college years!)

Students are pressured in college; students are pushed to achieve excellence, but what would be the point of college if a student was not seeking to achieve academic results worth earning? It seems ridiculous to assume that attaining a degree should be stress-free. Stress, also according to the Counseling Center is what motivates people and what keeps life from being boring.

Furthermore, it is unrealistic to assume that all students are locked away in the library or studying until the sun comes up every single night. Fraternity parties, bars, student activities, sporting events, weekends, and even simply homework-free nights are also frequent happenings in the typical life of a college student. So while the academic pressures may have been amped-up, the activities to relieve stress are also right at hand, readily available to those who choose to partake.

In addition to these recreational activities, counseling centers offer tips to manage stress and to relieve the negative effects of stress induced by college, such as taking breaks, going for walks, calling friends to talk about issues, and even developing a personal sense of meaning to give students the motivation to deal with the stresses of work.

What it comes down to is not just the amount of stress that college life and work that is unloaded on students, but how these students choose to deal with the stress. Students should remember that no part of life is stress free—not before nor after college life—and that developing healthy coping mechanisms will be of more benefit than demanding a less rigorous academic experience.

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