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Mastering College Stress and Anxiety

College can be rewarding and enriching, and a ticket to gainful employment in a variety of careers. It is also an environment where deadlines, large amounts of homework, and hours of intense study are common with routine tests. Because of demanding classes and other worries stress is common in college. The pressure students face to get the best possible grades and graduate can lead to or aggravate anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders are mental health issues that include persistent feelings of fear and worry that can inhibit a student’s ability to live a normal or fulfilling life. These problems can become so severe that they lead to suicidal thoughts or tendencies. Because anxiety can be a serious mental health issue, students should understand anxiety disorders and master stress-relieving techniques.

Anxiety Disorder Statistics

Anxiety disorders are a common problem among college students. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than one in 10 students have been diagnosed with some form of either depression or anxiety disorder. Furthermore, studies show that almost one in three college students have pondered committing suicide, which is up from just below one in four as of 2010. Both anxiety and depression may also accompany problems such as body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and even alcohol or drug abuse.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are six types of anxiety disorders. The first is generalized anxiety disorder. With this type of disorder, a person worries constantly that something negative is going to occur. Panic disorders are anxiety disorders in which people suffer from panic attacks. When a person is unable to stop unwanted thoughts and compulsions, it is called obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. A fear of an otherwise harmless object or situation is an anxiety disorder known as a phobia. A social disorder is a fear of social situations and interactions. It is often associated with a fear of being publicly embarrassed or treated negatively. And people who have lived through a traumatic event such as a war, a serious accident, or an attack may suffer from an anxiety disorder known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This is a disorder in which a person experiences nightmares, suffers from panic attacks, or has flashbacks associated with a traumatic event.

Mental and Physical Symptoms

When stress levels are elevated, a person can start to develop certain symptoms, both physical and mental. Physical symptoms of stress may include headaches, back aches, chest pain, ulcers, indigestion, insomnia, muscle tension, and fatigue. Mental signs of stress may be cognitive or emotional. These include feelings of anger, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and forgetfulness. In addition, symptoms can include an inability to concentrate, poor judgment, and forgetfulness.

Stress Relief and Ways to Cope

There are a number of ways to cope with college-related stress. The first and most basic step is to get enough rest. A lack of sleep from staying up late studying can raise stress levels and lower performance. Even short naps during the day can have a refreshing and calming effect. It’s also important that students not take on more than they can handle. This means recognizing and respecting one’s limits in terms of class schedules and extracurricular activities. Taking time to exercise helps to keep students physically healthy and releases mood-improving endorphins that can help one feel less stressed and in a more positive mood. Even short daily walks may be enough to help.

Good organizational and time-management skills are also helpful. This can be accomplished by first keeping one’s workspace and dorm room clear of excess clutter that can lead to frustration and stress. To better manage one’s time, set goals and then create and stick to a schedule. Students also may try stress-management techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises. But don’t be afraid to seek help if these techniques aren’t enough. Counseling is a valuable option for some college students, and finding an anxiety support group could also be helpful.

Learn more about how to handle stress as a college student and coping methods practiced by others around the country.