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What causes college stress?

Stress In College

Jonathan O’Brien, Ed.D. (Associate Dean of Students, Occidental College) gives expert video advice on: What causes college stress?; What can I do to reduce my stress levels in college?; What campus resources are available if Im overstressed? and more...

What causes college stress?

College is one of the times that probably produces one of the greatest amounts of stress for students who are going through it. Many times it's a good kind of stress, but it is still stress. It causes people to be unable to sleep, feel nervous or anxious, and that's normal. It's often caused by being away from home for the first time or really knowing that one is now a grown up and away from home. It can also be stressful being tested when going to a class and learning some things that are new, and having high expectations placed upon you, sometimes in a new way or sometimes for the first time in your life. Also, meeting new people can be a very stressful experience. Wanting to fit in and feeling like you belong, or hoping that people would want to meet you and talk with you, can cause a lot of stress as well.

What are the different types of stress I might face in college?

There are many different types of stress that can face students in college. Most of these are centered around academic issues. Being a student for the first time in a new environment with lots of new challenges being placed on you can be very stressful. Social environment stress such as meeting new friends, not fitting in, feeling like you don't belong, and then working hard to meet new friends is one type of stress. Also family stresses , which include being away from family, our family not necessarily understanding what it's like to be away, and not being able to call or contact them on a regular basis is another stress type. And financial stresses such as "how am I going to pay for this, how am I going to be able to have money to go out this weekend with this new group of friends that I found?" All of these things can be pretty stressful.

What can I do to reduce my stress levels in college?

Often college students face stress that is not of a serious nature but it is more related to the situations they're in, such as adapting to college. This can often be addressed by just by having a balanced diet, by getting plenty of rest, or by simply watching what they eat. Other times, stress can be relieved by working out, by visiting the gym or through the recreation center on campus. Also, touching base with friends and family back home can sometimes help alleviate stress. For those times that stress is a little bit more than one can handle, there are counselling centers available on most college campuses. Alternatively, referrals are certainly easy to make in the community, this means to simply talk to someone who's a professional who can help you work through some issues of adapting to this new environment.

What campus resources are available if Im overstressed?

It's not uncommon to feel overstressed, particularly at key points during the academic year. Like right before final exams, or before a major social event, or performance. But, sometimes you may notice that it's getting a little bit too much to handle. And there are various signs that people tend to know it might be a little too much for me to continue to go to class. These can be an inability to sleep, or maybe sleeping too much. Or not wanting to eat, not doing the things that you used to enjoy doing. Or hanging out with friends that you once did. When these sorts of things happen it's important to talk to someone. Sometimes friends are very helpful. But friends a lot of times don't know how to help except to be supportive. So when the time comes for more help, it's always important to talk to one of the resources that are available on your College or University campus. This could include a counselor at the counseling center, perhaps there's a spirituality office, a campus ministry office or something like that to speak or to visit someone who can talk through what's happening in your life. There's also the Dean of students office. Who on many campuses is there to make referrals in the community, or even to campus resources. And these are some of the people that if you allow them to assist you are trained to provide you the kind of assistance that can really help get you over a stressful period.

Where can I go to report unstable behavior in another student?

A student who is experiencing a crisis in the form of unstable behavior, erratic movements or even violent behavior should not be approached directly, but the student who observes them should first make a contact to the campus safety office - perhaps it's the public safety office or the Dean of student's office - to let someone know in authority who can also provide the appropriate resources to respond to assist that student. It's important to know exactly why you're calling, to be able to be very descriptive about what's actually occurring and to be able to pass that information onto the person as completely and as concisely as possible, so that they'll be able to respond to the scene and assist the person appropriately.