How to Go to College without Losing Your Mind
By: Kennika Freeman
There is no doubt that many college students feel stress. We may know we have stress when we experience it, but what is it exactly?
On Tuesday, September 15, 2009, BSU counseling services held a workshop in the Wiseman Student Center for to students to gather and discuss what stress is and various ways of managing it. Keith Hicks, who works with BSU'S Counseling and Student Development Department, hosted the event in which he educated students on the awareness of maintaining a positive mindset and environment to keep levels of stress at a minimum while in college.
"With any undergraduates or freshmen coming into a new atmosphere, especially if they may be miles away from home it's very important that we dispense as much positive information as we can to let the students know that someone cares and that when an issue arises they'll know that someone is willing to listen," Hicks says.
Hicks proceeded to say that, "stress is the body's reaction to any outside stimulus," and that without some stress; people would not get a lot done.
That extra burst of adrenaline that helps you finish your final paper, perform well in sports, or meet any challenge is positive stress. It is a short-term physiological tension and added mental alertness that subsides when the challenge has been met, enabling you to relax and carry on. Responses to stress can be physical, such as a headache; emotional, such as fear or sadness; and mental, such as increased anxiety.
If you cannot return to a relaxed state, then the stress becomes negative. The changes in your body (increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and muscle tension) start to take their toll, often leading to mental and physical exhaustion and illness. Too much stress can cause problems and affect our health, productivity and relationships.
In addition to academic requirements, relations with faculty members and time pressures may also be sources of stress. Relationships with family and friends, eating and sleeping habits, and loneliness may affect some students adversely.
Hicks also noted various ways of keeping levels of stress down by maintaining a positive environment while being surrounded by positive individuals. "As you get further into your college years you'll have to face certain truths such as relationships that may distract your education or even friends who don't seem to have a positive outlook on their own futures."
"It's very important that you maintain a leadership role because like they say you attract who you are," Hicks added.
New social opportunities and pressures can also be a source of stress for college students. While forming new friendships and getting involved in different groups and student associations can be exciting, it is also important not to spread yourself too thin, or to take on more than you can handle. Also, if you are hesitant or unsure about participating in certain social scenes or activities, don't hesitate to seek guidance about the best ways to resist these pressures.
"When time is short and demands are many, sometimes the first things to go are sleep, exercise, healthy meals and time for you. This response to feeling overwhelmed and overloaded actually creates more problems in the long run even though it may seem to be helping at the time," Sherica Green, a senior at BSU says.
There are several signs and symptoms that you may notice when you are experiencing stress such as the following:
- Worry or anxiety
- Confusion, and an inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Feeling out of control or overwhelmed by events
- Impatience & irritability
- Drinking more alcohol and smoking more
- Changing eating habits
- Mood changes
- Relying more on medication
- Reduced sex drive
Many students find it challenging to go from having ample parental support and structure to creating their own structure and self-discipline. With all the fun and temptation to party, coupled with the looser structure of classes, many students find themselves cramming, pulling all-nighters, and struggling with keeping up. In college, it's important to stay organized.
"I like to walk my dog and watch videos in my spare time when I feel like everything is just too much," says BSU student Erin Johnson.
"When I start to stress, I go to the studio with my friends and work on beats and my music to just tune the outside world out," Patrick Okosi comments who majors in criminal justice with a minor in music.
Hicks ended the workshop by noting ways on how to cope with stress from both school and one's own personal life. "If you want to maintain straight A's, you will obviously need to spend more time studying than most of your friends." Hicks went on to say, "The key to reducing stress is to figure out how much studying, socializing, and other activities you can do and still meet your goals."
Here are some more tips to make college a successful journey.
- Do not procrastinate- Procrastination leads to a lot of stress.
- Set aside time to relax. Exercising is a great tool to unwind. It helps your blood flow, releases endorphins to improve your mood, and makes you feel healthier overall.
- Talk to your professors or teaching assistants if you're struggling. They can provide extra help with material you're having difficulty understanding, or may provide tips on how to approach your work.
- Be your own person. Don't worry about who you're going to fit in with or whether or not you're doing things everyone else is doing. It's more important to be yourself and pursue what you're interested in. It will make your whole college experience much more enjoyable.
College is full of resources; professors, tutors, counselors, and often resident advisors. In college, it is up to you to initiate getting help. The good news is that once you do adjust to college life, it opens new doors to all sorts of learning and living.
Note: Counseling services for students are held on the top floor of the MLK in suite 300.