By Jennifer Johnson and Alex Macdougall
College can be stressful, and even more-so during exam periods. Lack of sleep and not managing your time well, mixed with the anxiety of trying to balance everything can push certain students over the edge. They often find themselves swamped with work and experiencing stress and anxiety.
The American College Health Association states that stress is “a normal physical, emotional, and mental response to change.” Severe stress, on the other hand, can sometimes be debilitating and often cloud a person’s common judgement and can lead to uncommon behavior.
Laura Murphy, the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Counseling, sees what stress can do to students first hand. She recognizes that stress can come in a variety of different forms, not all related to school, as well as some of life’s simple pressures.
“Students face a lot of pressure to succeed,” Murphy said. “For students who are struggling, reality can sometimes set in, in the last two weeks, [even not related to school], but facing anxiety of moving back home, and finding summer jobs.”
Signs of stress can often go undetected or unrecognized by students, most seeing them as a normal consequence of frenzied exam cramming. These symptoms, although manageable, can lead to serious results, such as physical and mental illness.
Different majors may come with different levels of stress, but no one major is considered ‘more’ stressful than the rest. How it affects an individual student is typically based on one’s personality and expectations.
Kylie Tun, a junior English major, finds her major to be a different type of stress than someone who may be majoring in a science or math field.
“I wouldn’t say that based on my major it’s more stressful,” Tun said. “However, I would say that because of my major, I usually end up having a lot of things to hand in, not just study for an exam.”
Though Tun gets stressed out from time to time, she finds it is more related to procrastination than due to a general course workload.
“When I stress a lot, it often becomes too much for me, and because I’m so overwhelmed, I sleep a lot, and end up not really putting any time and/or effort into the tasks I have,” Tun said. “The high volume is too much for my brain.”
Tun isn’t alone in the fact that she does not deal with stress very well. Stress is something that without being handled correctly, can really affect a person mentally and physically.
As stated by the American College Health Association, “One of the many challenges that college life presents involves learning to cope with and manage stress in new, more effective ways. To some extent, this is as important as what you learn in the classroom.”
The counseling office tries to help students by listing ways to manage stress.
“Some of the best ways to relieve stress would be to take frequent study breaks to do things such as exercise, or go for a walk,” Murphy said. “WSU offers a lot of extracurricular activities to help relieve stress, such as the car bash hosted by WSUR (Worcester State University Radio Station), and bringing in therapy dogs and cats for students to interact with.”
Taking these steps will help students catch the early stages of stress and prevent extreme measures from being taken.
An example of taking extreme measures would be the recent bomb threat that was made towards the psychology department in the Sullivan Academic Center —which threatened that if WSU did not cancel its classes, potentially violent measures would be taken.
Mike Nockunas, the Worcester State University Police Chief, knows that sometimes threats like these are made towards the school as a result of a student turning to a last resort and are not always true, but must be taken seriously to ensure the safety of the campus.
“We want students to take these things seriously, because they always are serious, even if we suspect it may be just a student wanting to get out of an exam,” Nockunas said. “We live in a day and age where these happenings are too common and need to be taken into serious consideration.”
Incidents like these can be prevented by managing stress and being proactive with studies.The American College Health Association as well as the Counselling office offer some ways to cope, and services to deal with stress and its effects.
Being well rested is one of the major tips Murphy suggests to students.
“When students feel overloaded, lack of sleep can reduce the ability to cope with the symptoms of stress,” Murphy said. “We tend not to cope well with things when we are tired, so sleep is one of the best remedies for someone dealing with stress.”
Junior, Communications major, Marissa Avanzato participates in petting therapy cats and dogs that were brought to campus WSU’s student center on May 4, in order to help students relax, and get their minds of off finals.