TCU Daily Skiff Friday, April 16, 2004
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Classes, jobs, relationships build pressure on students nationwide

By Kina Garrison

Contrary to the belief that college is demanding and enjoyable, students nationwide are constantly plagued by what the American Institution of Stress calls America’s No. 1 health problem.

This health hazard — stress — affects each person differently.

According to the American Institution of Stress, levels of stress have risen in college students and can lead to “substance abuse and other unhealthy lifestyle habits.”

Monica Kintigh, a licensed professional counselor at the counseling center, said there are many different causes of stress, and they can originate when you have to make several decisions in a short period of time. What is stressful for one person may not be stressful for others, she said.

There are several ways to identify your personal stress and learn how to control it, Kintigh said. First, you need to identify what type of stress you are experiencing.
According to the American Institution of Stress, “People can experience either external or internal stress.”

It reports external stress includes “adverse physical conditions” including pain or “stressful psychological environments,” like abusive relationships.

Internal stress can also have physical or psychological conditions, but an example of psychological stress is “intense worry.”

Regardless of the causes, most students who become overwhelmed by stress will experience unpleasant effects. If not controlled, stress can lead to the decline of the body’s overall well-being and cause depression or anxiety.

The institution reported if students prevent stress it can boost school performance and even personal happiness.

“I find that if I practice better time management skills I won’t be too overwhelmed all at once and become too stressed to completely focus,” said Jessie McCarroll, a sophomore elementary education major. “Also, it’s better not to worry so much and become stressed over little things — we all have tests and other things to do and it’s not the end of the world if you feel swamped every once in a while.”

According to the American Institution of Stress, several reasons contribute to the fact that stress levels are on the rise, especially with college students.

Angela Thompson, a sociology professor, said, “With the rising costs of tuition, increasing numbers of students are having to work part- or full-time. This is an added responsibility that increases the stress in the student’s life.”

Thompson said because her interaction with students is limited, she cannot always tell when students are stressed. Certain changes in a student’s behavior — like not coming to class, falling asleep in class or a dramatic drop in test scores — can trigger signs that a student is under too much stress, she said.

James Stuart, a public relations principles professor, said he knows students are stressed when he notices less enthusiasm among students or even something as small as students smiling less.

Everyone will have some symptoms of stress, but when these symptoms occur for a long period of time is when “stress becomes distress” and counseling is needed, Kintigh said.

Students add to the problem of stress by coping with it in negative ways, especially with drugs and alcohol.

“People in general go for the quick fix because they think that alcohol and drugs can release stress but it makes the problem worse,” Kintigh said. “Alcohol is a depressant and will make you have more stress. They (people) think they feel better initially, but once they quit using it, it becomes so much worse.”

To prevent stress, Kintigh said it is a good idea to have a healthy diet and to exercise. Taking care of your body and not taking matters so seriously is a great way to prevent stress. She also said humor is a great way to relieve stress because we have no control over what goes on in life, but we do have control over our attitude.

“If you’re going to laugh about something a year from today, go ahead and laugh about it today,” Kintigh said.

The counseling center can be reached for more information on stress-related topics at (817) 257-7863.
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