Stress management is an inevitable thing in the modern industrialized society. The pressures of college life make it stressful necessitating learning of some mechanisms and skills to cope with and manage stress in the day-to-day life.
Stress can be defined as the wear and tear our bodies experience as we adjust and adapt to our changing environment. (Whitman, 1985). Stress is both physiological and psychological. We also need to distinguish stress from stressors. “Stressors are demands made by the internal or external environment that upset balance, thus affecting physical and psychological well-being and requiring action to restore balance” (Lazarus & Cohen, 1977).
It is important to note that these internal and external pressure, for instance, financial constraints, family separation are just stressors and one’s response to such occurrences constitutes stress.
Without learning the art of stress management, individuals will be ineffective in whatever they are engaged. College students are not exception. A loaded curriculum, work-study programs and involvement in such things as drug all add up to students’ stress. Failure for college students to learn and develop good stress management strategies, learning will be difficult or extremely cumbersome rather than being an interesting engagement.
Causes of stress
Well, there can be no stress unless there are stressors. in this part of the paper; we will explore some of the possible causes of stress (stressors) in college.
1) Inadequate money
Some parents or guardians may not give or afford for their college students enough money to meet their educational and personal needs. When a student gets so much involved psychology with an issue like this, he/she is likely to be stressed and weighed down.
It is believed that over 90% college students are in relationships (dating) college relations are characterized with such issues as unfaithfulness, drunkenness and other negatives like separations triggered by peer pressure. These issues make college students in relationships vulnerable to stress as they fall prey to such stressors.
3) Change of new environment
In most cases, students attending college are required to relocate from home to college. This change of environment is likely to be a stressor and actually many college students are prone this form of stress.
4) Parental expectations
Some parents have too high expectations for their children. Such parents may actually communicate the same to their college going children. When a student knows that the parent has such high up expectations of him/her, he /she is likely to be stressed especially when they are engulfed by the fear that they are not likely to attain/reach their parents expectations. Also over-indulging in studying so as to please their parents by meeting these expectations may cause stress.
5) Unrealistic expectations
Both the students and their parents may have unrealistic expectations. For instance, a student may set too high a target for himself. In the effort to achieve these expectations, students may work harder and this may drain them psychologically and physically leading to stress.
6) Social pressures
As noted elsewhere in this paper, peer pressure is one of the major causes of stress in college students. As one joins college, he meets cliques in the school setup. These small groups have their own distinct cultures. As a student joins some of these small groups, he is required to change and adapt to the group’s culture. Changing of one’s behavioral patterns and adapting to new ones may be stressful. Also such groups may engage in stressful activities.
7) New responsibilities
A college student may be assigned a number of responsibilities on top of the coursework, for instance, he/she may be made the president of a club among others, and these added responsibilities may weigh heavy on the student thereby causing stress. Other causes include, change in sleeping habits, stress-prone diet, and extra-curricular activities. Stress may have positive effects.
Importance of stress
To some people, every time the term stress is mentioned, they associate it with negative results/effects. But this is not true. Not all stress is negative or bad. Infact, almost everyone needs some stress in his or her life for without it life would be gloomy, dull and uninteresting. “Insufficient stress acts as a depressant” (www.ivf.com/stress.html.) Stress makes life bright, adds flavor, challenge to life. Stress helps to jump- start us. The challenge and opportunities created by stress are vital in developing new and essential skills for life.
We will be cheating ourselves if we entertain the thought that we can avoid stress. Put bluntly, stress is an unavoidable part of life but if managed well, it can be a very constructive motivational factor in our lives.
1) Alcohol and drug addition. When college students are confronted with stress they may not have positive strategies to cope with such pressure. This may make them resort to alcohol and drug abuse as a means to relieve stress.
2) Headaches, chest pain among others. Excess stress may cause aches to students and this may make them in effective in their learning.
3) Irritable and anger prone. This may severe his/her relationship with other students and even teachers. This obviously has a negative effect on learning.
4) Sleeplessness. Stress makes the student to lack sleep and this will negatively affects their learning process as they may feel drowsy and lazy during class time.
5) Unethical behaviors. Student stressed up due to lack of adequate finances may resort in to such behaviors as commercial sex and stealing and this may hinder their learning.
Stress has a chain of effects and symptoms. They all point out that one’s life is not managed well. Well, stress may make a student to be overwhelmed but such bursts of adrenaline that helps students to finish their assignment within the stipulated time, face some challenges and do well in some areas is actually positive stress. “Stressors, such as noise or sleep loss, act by either increasing or decreasing the arousal level of the individual relative to the optimum level for a given task (Hockey & Hamilton, 1983). As we have seen stress has both positive and negative effects.
Stress management strategies
Having explored some of the effects of stress on college students, it is clear that failure for students to learn smart stress management and coping strategies can be detrimental to college students. Learning stress management skill is almost a must for students if they have to become productive individuals both in school and in the community, some of these strategies can be helpful to students:
1) Exercise: physical exercise helps students to relieve themselves of stress. Students should learn how to cope and manage stress through physical exercises. Students should make exercise part and parcel of their curriculum. They should be discouraged from using temporary solutions such as drugs (caffeine)
2) Having enough sleep: student should learn to get enough sleep so that their minds and bodies get relaxed. They should learn to invest in adequate and healthy sleep. This must not be optional.
3) Relaxing techniques: students should learn techniques to help them relax both their minds and bodies. This can be done through such avenues as enjoying soothing music medication, massage, and deep breathing. “Techniques such as biofeedback…are used. Biofeedback aim to develop awareness and control of responses to stressors” (Glanz et al, 2002)
4) Getting organized: Student must learn to prioritizing tasks through the help of a
Work schedule otherwise they will have “so much to do, so little time”(Williams, 1996). When students learn to get organized they avoid stress emanating from failure to complete tasks within the required time.
5) Enjoy humor: laughter is medicine, so they say. Students should learn to stop being too serious sometimes and this will help them cope with stress. They should learn to enjoy humor and laughter. They should learn to take a break from books and smell the roses. Stopping procrastinations, learning to say no to some responsibilities which one doesn’t have adequate time for are all strategies that can help students manage and cope with stress effectively in college.
Students should learn effective strategies in management and coping with stress so that their detrimental effects can be counteracted. When such strategies are mastered, stress becomes a challenge to facilitate learning. Stress management should be made part of the college curriculum to help them overcome some of these negative effects and capitalize on the positive hence learn more effectively