Stress is not going away after college, and can’t be ignored

by Cassidy McCombs , Staff Writer

What are your plans for after you graduate?

College students are feeling the growing stress as the semester hits its midway mark, and the stress of the fall and winter seasons also begins to creep in. These seasons mean holiday season — which means family, friends, out-of-town guests and a lot of questions about the future. While social pressures weigh in from all sides, internal pressure to meet projected standards and expectations is ultimately the stress trigger.

The real problem with stress in college is the idea that remaining stressed now somehow translates to not being stressed later in life.

Yes, college brings on anxiety and amplified pressure. But, the expectations that cause this unease are not limited to the college experience. Popular media sites release articles related to college stress such as Spoon University’s piece, “8 College Eating Habits You Don’t Realize Aren’t Normal Until You Graduate.” It helps lighten the mood around self-care and health maintenance. These articles give a comical appeal to how people prioritize expectations over self-maintenance.

But the truth is, America is stressed out.

NPR published an article about the American Psychological Association’s (APA) survey “Stress in America: Coping with Change.” It found that for the first time in 10 years, American stress levels were rising.

Stress is often related to the future. According to Lynn Bufka, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, constant access to news is a large factor. Breaking news can be accessed at all times, from a variety or social media platforms and multiple viable sources. While remaining up-to-date on the world is a responsible task, knowing too much about uncertain predictions and updates is more stress than one might think.

The American Psychological Association measured stress from a variety of causes. The largest stress factors remain to be money, work and the economy. They also found that Americans not only worry about the political climate, but also fear terrorism, mass shootings and/or gun violence and the future of America. Race and gender gaps have seen slightly lower average of stress levels since last year, but stress management consistently remains unaddressed. This theory is applicable to the way stress and anxiety is treated at a college level.

Mental health is overlooked when topics such as nuclear bombs, executive orders and civil rights are broadcasted constantly. Even more so when issues like midterms, group projects and social events have to fit around other world affairs. College stress is a matter of time management and self-preservation — in the hands of students who only just learned how to separate their laundry or who transferred from a community college.

The level of stress becomes internalized, alongside physiological concerns such as sleep, nutrition and self-restraint.

Stress has both emotional and physical side effects. These include frequent headaches and body aches. These side effects alongside the concern for emotional stability, make it necessary to face the issue.

The stress faced in college is not on a time limit and learning how to healthily address stress and self-care is important.

Start prioritizing mental health and well-being because learning stress management skills is a way to reduce overall anxiety. A lack of attention to teaching stress management skills is an issue found within the American Psychological Association’s nationwide survey. Addressing mental health and self-care on college campuses will help bring light to the fact that students on campus — and people in all walks of life — are in need of more emotional support and understanding