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Stress is something that affects everyone. Stress is a person's reaction to a change in his or her environment. Each individual reacts to stress in different ways that may be healthy or unhealthy. Additionally, there are two different kinds of stress acute and chronic. Chronic stress can negatively impact one's health. It can trigger many different feelings including: anxiety, overwhelmed, irritable, insecurities, etc.
It is really important for college students to maintain healthy levels of stress. Especially since college contains many stressors. A student has to choose between what is important to him/her: a social life, good grades, sleep, extracurriculars and many other things. Trying to balance everything can create a great deal of stress. Also, as a first-year student stress is higher; there are many factors that could provide acute and chronic stress to first-year students such as, a new living environment, connecting with people, having roommates, setting one's own schedule, etc.


  • Sources of Stress
    • Academic Stress
      • Anxiety
  • Methods to reduce stress
    • Effective Coping mechanisms
      • Effective time management
      • Social support
      • Positive reappraisal
      • Engagement in leisure pursuits
        • Meditation
        • Reading
        • Listening to music
        • Exercise
  • Drinking: a poor method of coping


Stress is the physical, emotional, cognitive, or behavioral response to an event or stressor that a person appraises as threatening. Stressors are presented in two different types: distress and eustress (Ciccarelli and White 2010). Distress results from negative events such as performing poorly on an exam while eustress results from positive events such as starting college. Each of these events require change in some way whether it is in habits, duties, or lifestyle (Ciccarelli and White 2010).

Different levels of stress can result in very different outcomes and the amount of stress an individual has in his or her life needs to be balanced accordingly. When a high level of stress occurs over a long period of time it increases the likelihood of an individual to develop an illness. The stress curve shows that there is a period of optimum stress that motivates an individual to perform at his or her best but if an individual pushes his or her body past this point the body begins to go into an exhaustion phase. In the exhaustion phase the body has used up all its resources and leaves the body susceptible to stress related diseases (Ciccarelli and White 2010). However, in the other extreme extremely low levels of stress are also bad because then performance is low, sometimes stagnant, people preform the best with levels of moderate stress, extremely low or high levels of stress decrease performance (Nonis et al., 1998).

Sources of Stress

Daily hassles were reported as a major source of stress in college students even over major life events, intrapersonal sources were reported the most (Ross et al., 1999).

Top Five Sources of Stress (Ross et al., 1999)
  1. changes in sleep habits
  2. vacation or breaks
  3. change in eating habits
  4. increase in work load
  5. new responsibilities

First-year students are prone to stress due to the transitional nature of college. A first-year student experiences all of the top five sources of stress in a very short period of time and many continue throughout college. Studies have previously evaluated the stress levels of students and the first-year students score higher than others in levels of chronic stress (Ross et al., 1999).
In a study Ross performed students reported 81.1% of identified stressors as daily hassles (Ross et al., 1999).

However, an individual's reaction to stress can greatly impact the amount he or she is affected by it.

Coping with Stress

It is very important for college students to learn to manage excess stress while engaging in healthy habits (Oman et al., 2008).

Leisure activities are a positive way to cope with stress. Additionally, leisure activities produce physiological benefits reducing academic stressors and a person's reaction to stress (Misra and McKean 2000).

Leisure Activities

  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Listening to Music
  • Meditation

A leisure activity is something you enjoy doing in the time when you are not working, that provides relaxation.

Time Management

Time management is a very important tool for students to develop and use. A study using university students "found that those who reported more purpose and structure to their time also reported psychological well-being, optimism about the future, more efficient study habits, fewer physical symptoms, and less depression and hopelessness, among other positive tendencies" (Macan et al., 1990). Therefore practicing good time management skills such as adhering to a schedule, creating goals, and being organized can improve psychological well-being. Also students who had clear goals reported a greater level of satisfaction and performance and students who felt in control of a situation reported lower levels of stress (Macan et al., 1990)

There were also some interesting results in this study. Women scored higher on the time management survey but did not report feeling any more in control of time than men (Macan et al., 1990). However, this could be contributed to different reactions to stressful situations.


Drinking is a negative coping mechanism. The percentage of students who report drinking when under stress is rising, from 1990 to 1994 it increased by 13 percent (Park and Levenson 2002). An alarming problem correlates with using drinking as a coping mechanism, research suggests that those who drink to cope may not mature out of heavy drinking after graduation and it can result in heavy drinking problems later in life (Park et al., 2004). Students should be aware of their levels of alcohol consumption in order to prevent dependency and bad habits later in life. When college students drink because of a stressor it ingrains that reaction to stressors and encourages drinking when faced with stressors down the road.


Stress is an issue that affects college students due the nature of the environment. Students have to deal with academic, social, and personal challenges. If students are ineffective at coping with stress it can negatively affect academic performance, "In 2004, stress was the most commonly identified impediment to academic performance... (Oman et al., 2008)". Therefore students need to learn ways to cope with different stressors in positive ways. Coping can be as simple as creating a schedule and sticking to it or participating in leisure activities. In many studies these actions have shown to reduce levels of stress and improve quality of life. It is very important to manage stress levels, especially when long term stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease and an increased rate of autoimmune diseases in adults but college students can experience anxiety, depression, hopelessness, poor health, headaches, sleep disturbances, etc. (Oman et al., 2008). There are many adverse effects from poor management of stress. Drinking is a poor coping mechanism and students need to be aware of their drinking habits to prevent complications later in life. Later complications can include alcohol dependency and poor coping mechanisms leading to greater levels of stress.


Ciccarelli, S. K., & White. (2010). Stress and health. In S. K. Ciccarelli, & White, Psychology an Exploration (Second ed., pp. 310-343). Pearson Education.
Macan, R. L., Shahani, Dipboye, & Phillips. (1990). College Students' Time Management: Correlations With Academic Performance and Stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 760-768.
Misra, R., & McKean. (2000, January 1). College Students' Academic Stress and its Relation to Their Anxiety . American Journal of Health Studies, 16(1).
Nonis, S. A., Hudson, Logan, & Ford. (1998, October). Influence of Perceived Control Over TIme on College Students' Stress and Stress-Related Outcomes. Research in Higher Education, 39(5), 587-605.
Oman, D., Shapiro, Thoresen, Plante, & Flinders. (2008, March/April). Meditation Lowers Stress and Supports Forgiveness Among College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of American College Health, 56(5), 569-578.
Park, C. L., & Levenson. (2002). Drinking to Cope among College Students: Prevalence, Problems and Coping Processes. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 486-497.
Park, C. L., Armeli, & Tennen. (2004, January). The Daily Stress and Coping Process and Alcohol Use amound College Students. Journal of Sudies on Alcohol, 126-135.
Ross, S. E., Niebling, & Heckert. (1999, June). Sources of Stress Among College Students. College Student Journal, 33(2), 312-318.