Monday, March 23, 2009

College Stress

Stress: A Deadly Matter
By Damaris Colon

Excruciating and pounding migraines, sensitivity to light, and nose bleeds; these are the physical complications I’ve experienced as a result of what many college students are recently becoming way too familiar with.

In March of 2008, I visted my doctor and told him my symptoms. After a few minutes he quickly found the cause of my frequent headaches and nose bleeds: high blood pressure, which has been linked to heart attacks and sudden death. The doctor told me that I “would be on medication for the rest of my life.”

Everyday causes of stress: school, work, commuting, and health.

There should be no reason for a twenty-one year old woman to be diagnosed with high blood pressure; with a generally healthy diet what could be the cause? The answer: STRESS. Being a junior in college is stressful enough on its own. However, being a full-time junior in college, a full time public relations assistant, living alone, paying bills, and maintaining a relationship has proven to be ten times more stressful; and I have the prescription meds to prove it.

This scenario may become too familiar for college students today; though everyone reacts to stress differently. According to the University of Florida’s Counseling Center ( UFCC), students today are experiencing more stress than the generations before them as they face the competition for grades, the need to perform, relationships, fear of AIDS, career choice, and many other aspects of college life.

Not all stress is bad stress, however. The stress you feel when you are preparing to take an exam may give you that extra push you need to focus and study hard so you can do well on your test. The trouble arises when you experience too much stress says the UFCC.

The UFCC provides four primary sources of stress: the environment (noise, pollution, traffic, crowding) physiological (illness, injuries, inadequate sleep), your thoughts (the way you think affects how you respond), and social stressors (financial problems, work demands, losing a loved one).

Like many illnesses stress doesn’t go without symptoms. Some of these symptoms of stress can include physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, muscular tension, headaches, and difficulty sleeping; emotional symptoms such as irritability, depression, and anger; and cognitive symptoms such as forgetfulness, unwanted thoughts, and difficulty concentrating.

There are several ways to minimize stress in your life. The UFCC specifies four general ways to minimize and deal with stress; these include developing a balanced lifestyle, gaining perspective by discussing problems, utilizing relaxation techniques, and clarifying your values and develop a sense of life meaning. By maintaining the right balance of sleep, food, exercise, work, and recreation you can begin to develop a balanced lifestyle.

Allowing oneself to discuss problems with a friend is a great way to gain new perspectives. Seeking relaxation through calming exercises such as deep breathing, yoga, or even just sitting in silence can lead to a replenished energy level and ability to cope with the outside world. Knowing what you want out of life and setting goals can help you feel better about yourself and increase your satisfaction out of life.

Stress has become a part of our every day lives however; we don’t have to let it run our lives. It is very important, for college student especially, to maintain a healthy lifestyle now so as to insure healthy habits in the future.

For more information on this visit the University of Florida’s Counseling Center online.

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