The Monster of Stress & WHY it's important to understand in college students:

Stress is defined as an overwhelming state of mental or emotional strain. Stress is the direct result from adverse or demanding circumstances, and is seen in the li
Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 4.54.52 PM.pngves of many people on a daily basis. Due to this condition, stress has become a way of life, and and inevitable factor in our daily routines. Stress is a duo-faceted physical response to the nature of a situation, which typically means that stress has it (pros) and negative (cons) sides.

Basically the positive side of stress allows one to optimally perform under constant pressure, with the key of motivation to put forth their best efforts in order to maximize the success of a result. The negative side of stress causes one to feel as if they were constantly running in emergency mode, and therefore affecting the mental and physical state of an individual. This type of negative stress for example, is prominent in individuals like college students because they are adapting and adjusting to a new environment, level of independence, work load, and responsibilities. Finding a balance in knowing how to identify its signs and symptoms can reduce the byproducts of anxiety, fear, panic attacks, or over exaggerated behaviors associated with stress. These symptoms explain the "flight or fight" response because when stress upsets our balance, our bodies automatically kick into high gear, firing us up and stressing us out.

Common Events Stressful to College Students:
  1. Examshow-to-study-effectively-for-exams.pngsummer-classroom-003-2-1.jpgmoran_and_thad.jpgpeer-pressure2.gifPath-to-Success-300x220.jpgfacebook problems in relationships.jpg
  2. Classes
  3. Sports
  4. Work
  5. Finances
  6. Dating
  7. Family
  8. Goals
  9. Expectations
  10. Peer Pressure
  11. Responsibilities

Common Stressors:
  • Greater Academic Demands
  • Being on your own in a new environment and with new responsibilities
  • Changes in family relationships and in one's social life
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Exposure to new people, ideas, and temptations
  • Making decisions on a higher level
  • Substance abuse
  • Questioning of one's sexual identity/orientation
  • Life preparation after graduation
  • Psychological well-being

Overall Problems:
  • Procrastination
  • Ambition Overdrive
  • Time Management
  • Prioritization

"EMERGENCY" State-of-Mind Physical Changes:
  • Increased heart rate

  • Raised blood pressure level
  • Hyperventilation (fatally sustained quick-shortened breaths)
  • Sharpened senses (vision, sound, smell, taste, touch reactions)
*Such physical changes increases one's strength and stamina, speeds one's reaction time, and sharpens one's focus to generate the decision in a fight or flight response*

The "DRIVING" Stress Analogy:

Developed by Psychologist Connie Lillas

Three most common ways people respond to overwhelming stress:
  1. Foot on Gas- A type of furious or agitated response that causes one's body temperature to rise, become overly emotional, and unable to maintain civilized composure.
    • Example: The feeling of doing well after an exam and upon getting the exam back, realizing that you did way worse than you thought. Your inside begins to fire up, and many emotions and potential swear words run through your thoughts. You storm out of class, and the rest of your day is ruined. You feel like kicking everything in sight, and are cantankerous the remainder of the day.
  2. Foot on Break- A type of withdrawn or depressed response that causes one to shut down, space out, and display stolid or apathetic behavior.
    • Example: The feeling of being homesick after being away from home too long. Even if there are opportunities to keep you distracted, or instances to go out and socialize, you tend to either turn them down or have a distracted state of mind that hinders your ability to enjoy life. You feel alone, and want to keep to yourself for a period of time.
  3. Foot on Both- A type of tense or frozen response that causes one to freeze under pressure and malfunction while feeling agitated inside at the same time.



Some Causes of Stress Particular to College Students

  • Major life change
  • Work
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Overly busy
  • Children and family related


  • Inability to accept uncertainty
  • Pessimism
  • Negative self-talk (Body image, not being good enough, not fitting in with social norms)
  • Unrealistic expectations (Demanding a 4.0+ GPA; Not accepting of a B)
  • Perfectionism (Spending so much time on a project)
  • Lack of assertiveness
Part of Brain affected:
When the body senses danger, it goes into stress mode and immediate nerve signals activate the pituitary glands located on the top of our kidneys. This triggers the release of a stress hormone called adrenaline, which results in the typical flight or fight response (visceral activity of heart rate and temperature increase). The Hypothalamus senses this activity taking place, and activates the pituitary gland at the bottom of our brains through signaling. This activation will cause the adrenal cortex to produce more stress hormones, and allow the episode of "stress to take place".



(Cognitive & Emotional)
Memory difficulty
Melodramatic behavior
Bi-polar like behavior
Irrational judgement
(Affects frontal lobe)
Inability to relax
Negative outlook
Overwhelmed feeling
Agitated, nervous thoughts
Sense of isolation
Consistent worrying
Overall unhappiness

(Physical & Behavioral)
Body aches and pain
Over eating or loss of appetite
Diarrhea or constipation
Oversleeping or lack of sleep
Nausea or dizziness
Chest pain or rapid heart beat
Negligent of responsibilities (apathy)
Frequent colds
Resorting to the use of alcohol,
drugs, or cigarettes to relax
Loss of sex drive "libido"
Nervous habits (nail biting,
pacing, leg shaking, etc.)

Influence on stress tolerance levels

  • Support network

    • Family, friends, and pets are proven therapeutic as an enormous buffer against life stressors. The more lonely and isolated one is, the more time one has to think and dwell upon the stressful situations that exist within and around them.
  • Sense of control

    • Confidence is key to conquering tough situations and influential events surrounding peer and environmental pressure. People vulnerable to stress tend to feel out of control for certain stressful events.
  • Attitude and Outlook "Attitude determines Altitude"

    • If one has an optimistic demeanor towards stressful situations in life, they are more likely to embrace challenge in a positive manner and the determination to succeed past the factor of stress.
  • Ability to deal with one's emotions

    • Defines one's ability to bring their emotions into balance and bounce back from adversity. Otherwise, one would be extremely vulnerable to stress not knowing how to place them under control and likewise, feel sad, angry, and depressed.
  • Knowledge and preparation

    • Knowing your body's own and sign and symptoms when entering the stress phase will help ease with preparation and coping abilities despite the nature and severity of a situation they may be going through.

Health Problems Associated with Stress:

  1. General pain
  2. Heart Disease
  3. Indigestion/Digestive Problems (Ulcers)
  4. Sleep disorders, insomnia, sleep paralysis
  5. Depression (feeling of helplessness)
  6. Obesity (from turning to food as a comfort stimulus)
  7. Autoimmune sickness (lack of sleep, eating/sleep disorders, mental state declines one's immune system)


Dealing/coping mechanisms on stress (re-capped from above):

  • MANAGE: Take charge of your thoughts, emotions, schedule, and your environment. Organize agenda and create a "block schedule". Possibly eliminate unnecessary events from your agenda.
  • RELAX: Yoga, mediation, and deep breathing to activate the body's relaxation systems. Get enough rest to increase your REM sleep and regulate your body's circadian rhythm!
  • REDIRECT: Take a break! Find something of interest to you and enjoy life for a bit. Sports, physical activity, social gatherings, and personal interests will help you to redirect your stress into something more positive and influence the way you handle stressful situations. Therefore, you don't mire in unsuccessful business in dealing with stress.
  • REFOCUS: Once you manage, relax, and redirect your stress, it is time to refocus on something greater and return to your original business with a more clear and tranquil mindset.

  • 4 in 10 college students often felt stressed, 1 in 4 felt stress daily, 1/5 stressed most of the time, and 1/10 felt like committing suicide to to the effects of depression
    -According to an MSN article from the Associated Press and college TV station mtvU.
    -2005 National College Health Association (NCHA) surveyed 17,000 college students:
    • 1. 25% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function
    • 2. 21 % felt the need to commit suicide as a result

    • Things that COE COLLEGE does to help alleviate stress:
    1. Dog Therapy Day- Provided by career services during Finals Week
    2. Academic Achievement Program: helps students struggling in academics/provides better environment for test taking
    3. Tutoring & Supplemental Instruction Session: extended study sessions by TA's & Tutor

Social & Personal Life:
    1. Coe Adjustment Peers (CAP) leaders
    2. Resident Assistants
    3. Confidential Staff Resources (Nurse Practitioner, Chaplain, Multicultural Affairs Director)
    4. St. Lukes private counseling
    5. Student Activities Committee Events


Works Cited:
Smith, M. (2007, April 16). The effects of stress overload and what you can do about it.
MedicalNewsToday(2009, April 11). What Is Stress? How To Deal With It,
MayoClinic(2013, July 13). Stress symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior.
Lewin, Tamar. (2011, January 26). Record Level of Stress Found in College Students.
Associated Press. (2008, March 18). 1 in 5 Undergrads is Constantly Stressed.
Hardy, Marcelina. (2006, September 27). Statistics on College Student Stress. http://www,