Stress has been defined as “the negative feelings that occurs when an individual feel unable to cope with the demands placed upon them by their environment” (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). Stress is a thing that is experienced by everyone at some stage of their life. College students represent a group which is particularly sensitive to stress.
The transition into college life from a school setting can be challenging for some people. The transition involves moving from top dog to the lowest position. (Stantrock, 2004).
In addition to the common stressors experienced by the general population, college students encounter an additional range of stressors: being away from home for the first time, holding down jobs, time management, financial obligations towards fees/ boarding etc, and on a social/emotional level maintaining relationships. (Archer and Lamin, 1985). A disturbing trend in college student health is the reported increase in student stress nationwide (Sax (Simple API for XML) A programming interface (API) for accessing the contents of an XML document. SAX does not provide a random access lookup to the document’s contents.
It scans the document sequentially and presents each item to the application only one time. , 1997). This is evident in Hirsch and Keniston (1970) study, which looked at the dropout rate of students in university. They estimated that fifty percent of entering students do not finish college four years later. When stress is perceived negatively or becomes excessive, students experience physical and psychological impairment Impairment 1. A reduction in a company’s stated capital. 2. The total capital that is less than the par value of the company’s capital stock. Notes: 1. This is usually reduced because of poorly estimated losses or gains.
2. (Murphy and Archer, 1996). Stress has a number of sources which can be classified according to the magnitude of the event: cataclysmic events include natural disasters such as floods, life events such a death produce a change that requires adaptation and daily hassles are everyday events that create repetitive distress. (Brannon and Feist, 2007). Daily stressors are “the irritating, frustrating, distressing demands that to some degree characterize everyday transactions with the environment” (Archer and Lamin, 1985). Many studies have researched what the primary sources of stress are among college students.
A study in a university in the united states found that the five highest stressors among the student population were a change in sleeping habits, a change in breaks, a change in eating habits, new responsibilities and increased work load. (Ross, Neilbling and Hecket, 1999). According to Hirsch and Ellis (1966) the pressure to earn good grades and to earn a degree is a very high source of stress among students. Taylor (2009) states that overloaded people who have more tasks in their lives report higher levels of stress than do those who have fewer tasks, which would apply to college students especially around exam time.
Kohn and Frazer proposed that too much coursework and unclear assignments also contributed to stress levels. And sgan-Cohen and Lowental (1988) indicated that time pressures and interaction with faculty members were common stressors. It is clear from these studies that college students are particularly prone to stress. Although relationships have been found to influence stress by acting as a buffer against negative outcomes (Sim, 2000), they also present common sources of stress related to peer pressure, navigating romantic relationships, and navigating relationships with parents (Byrne et al., 2007).
In a study of Canadian high school students, two of the three categories of stressors mentioned by students from all types of academic tracks involved stress associated with family and friends (Mates and Allison, 1992). The positive or negative effects of family roles depend on the resources people have available. Both men and woman are affected by family support, but women’s health is more strongly affected by this source of stress. (Brannon and Feist, 2007). A great deal of research to date has focused on the effect stress has on a student’s academic performance.
People respond very differently to stress. The impact of any potentially stressful event is substantially influenced by how a person appraises it. (Taylor, 2009). According to Yerkes-Dodson Law (1908) when stress reaches an optimal point performance decreases. This law maintains that people under high or low stress will learn less than those under moderate stress. Although the Yerkes and Dodson law is quite old it had held up through numerous studies. Lazurus (1966) similarly stated that the extent of a students stress is a significant predictor of performance.
Moore, Burrows and Danziels (1992) study traced a link between motivation and stress. These researchers believed that moderate amounts of stress motivated people and increased performance, this was referred to as positive stress. However negative stress (distress) had a discouraging effect on people. This type of stress involved strain, tension and burnout psychically and psychologically. Stress in moderation is a good thing as too low the levels of stress lead to a low quality of functioning, similarly too high the levels of stress also lead to a low quality of functioning. (Frankenhaeuser, 1986).
This belief shows that a middle ground exists where stress reaches a level that far from being a problem; it in fact heightens concentration and allows for optimum performance on tasks. Stress can also have a negative effect physically. Difficulties can arise when there is a sustained and prolonged elevation of stress levels. The body’s energy reserves can become depleted. This places increasing demands on the body, specifically the cardiovascular system and immune system responses. Although stress can affect immune functions, the relations are far from simple.
As shown in a meta-analysis by Suzanne Segerstrom and Gregory Miller (2004), which combined the statistical results of more than 300 studies, effects depend on the nature of the stressors and the specific immune functions of the body (Passer et el, 2008). The effects can also be influenced by personality, Type A people are characterised by high levels of competitiveness and ambition, which can foster aggressiveness and hostility when things get in their way while type B people are shown to be more serene and patient.
Type A people have an increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to type B. However, the type A persons fast paced, time conscious life style and high ambition are not the culprits to vulnerability to coronary disease. Rather, the crucial component seems to be negative emotions, particularly anger. (passer et el, 2008) Acute and chronic stress has also been linked to psychological and emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, irritability, frustration, anger, worrying, uncertainty, and lack of confidence.
Additional negative consequences of prolonged states of stress include reduced energy, increased muscle tension, and emotional distress (Almeida, 2005; Brown & Harris, 1989). Previous research has found that college may be the most stressful time in an individual’s life and are susceptible to these negative consequences (Lumley and Provenzano, 2003). Several studies have reported that depressive symptoms also are frequent among university students worldwide and their prevalence appears to be increasing dramatically. According to Dianne tice and her colleagues distressed people tend to behave more impulsively.
They demonstrated that when stressed, people do things oriented toward making them feel better, and some of those things are health threatening such as unhealthy diet, smoking, drinking and drug use. These indulges may make people feel better temporarily, but are poor choices. (Brannon and Feist, 2007) Coping consists of a person’s conscious attempt at managing the demands and intensity of events perceived as stressful or improving one’s personal resources (e. g. , positive affect, confidence, self-controlself-control n.
Control of one’s emotions, desires, or actions by one’s own will. ….. Click the link for more information. ) in attempting to reduce or manage one’s perceived stress intensity (Lazarus Lazarus (laz`?r?s) [Gr. ,=Heb. , Eleazar], in the New Testament. 1 Brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany who, after four days in the tomb, was brought back to life by Jesus. , 1999). Students can use a variety of coping strategies in response to daily stressors. Some strategies are directed at changing stressors, while others are directed at managing the emotions triggered by stressors.
Specific examples include thinking about something else, participating in religious activities, expressing emotions, being physically active, and behaving aggressively (Atkins, 1991). Several coping techniques have been identified in the professional literature and include both healthy and unhealthy strategies such as self-distraction, active coping, denial, substance use, use of emotional support, use of instrumental support, disengagement, venting, positive reframing, planning, humor, acceptance, religion, and self-blame (Kim and Seidlitz, 2002).
Two fundamental coping strategies to deal with stress are problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping (Brannon and Feist, 2007). Regarding problem-focused coping, the goal of coping is to remove or reduce stressors through information seeking, planning, direct action, and seeking instrumental help (Kim and Seidlitz, 2002). Regarding emotion-focused coping, the goal of coping involves dealing with emotional responses to stressors such as self-blame, blaming others, focusing on emotions, controlling emotions, venting emotions, fantasy or wishful thinking, seeking emotional support, and avoidance (Felsten, 1998).
Avoidance strategies are a type of emotional-focused coping which includes methods such as distraction, denial, social diversion, behavioral disengagement, and alcohol or drug use (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). Research has also identified several effective acute stress management techniques used to alleviate stress (Smith, 2007). These relaxation techniques are described as being most effective when stress is most acute or severe.
Some of the documented techniques for relieving stress in an acute setting include stretching exercises (Michalsen et al., 2005) and progressive muscle relaxation (Smith, 2007). Often when stressed, individuals take a defensive posture via standing, crouching, or bending over a desk for an extended period of time. To help relieve physical tension, stretching exercises target stressed posture and positioning (Smith, 2007). Progressive muscle relaxation has been found to be an excellent technique to relax skeletal muscles, internal organs, and the mind.
Similarly, the procedure for progressive muscle relaxation involves asking patients to tense and relax groups of muscles and to recognize the contrast between those states of the muscle while the “therapist often speaks in a slower, softer, deeper voice when telling participants to relax” (Scheufele, 2000). To reduce stress, thereby decreasing the likelihood of burnout and attrition, graduate students need help in developing effective strategies to cope with stress especially by enhancing social support networks.
Methods to reduce stress by students often include effective time management, social support, positive reappraisal, and engagement in leisure pursuits (Blake and Vandiver, 1988; Mattlin et el, 1990). The concept of time management is generally defined in terms of clusters of behavior that are deemed to facilitate productivity and alleviate Alleviate To make something easier to be endured. Mentioned in: Kinesiology, Applied stress (Lay and Schouwenburg, 1993).
Effective time management strategies increase academic performance (Campbell and Svenson, 1992) and are frequently suggested by academic assistance personnel as aids to enhance achievement for college students. Although programs emphasize starting large tasks well before due dates, breaking down large tasks into small ones, and doing small tasks on a regular schedule, students regularly ignore these techniques and find themselves in great distress before exams (Brown, 1991).
An online study by Woodberry (2010) showed by use of a self-administered online survey in 3rd level student that 61% of respondents replied that “sport helped relieve stress”. A study using an Irish sample was carried out in Galway in 2003 under the commission of the western health board. Shaughnessy (2003) found using a sample size of 10 schools that participation in extracurricular activities can “reduce anxiety and stress”. Another study that looked at stress in relation to students was the Wilson & Pritchard study from 2005.
This research was conducted on students to discover the sources of stress in everyday life for them. The recommendations of this study showed that sport could act as a “buffer to stress”. However this study of Wilson and Pritchard’s also conceded that sport “may be an added stressor” in certain settings, as did a study by Johnson (2009) which also pointed out sport can “actually become sources of stress”. People feel better when they eat a healthy diet, engage in physical exercise, have positive interactions with friends and get enough sleep. (Brannon and Feist, 2007).
A well planned canteen menu that provides and encourages healthy eating can help get students on board with eating better, this along with information on sleeping habits and importance of physical activity can ensure students have the knowledge necessary to develop a healthy lifestyle which in turn may prevent stress. A program called Combat Stress Now is a stress management program that reaches troubled students before stresses of academic life lead them to fail or drop out. Participants in the program learn what stress is and its effects. They also learn how to monitor stress and recognise to do things
in moderation. They also learn new skills, how to set goals, how to complete out of hours assignments, time management and planning. Loneliness can also cause some students distress which can be helped by learning to recognise the importance that social support can serve in helping them combat stress in a world with many sources of stress. (Taylor, 2009). Learning to cope effectively with stress may help prevent illness and changing unsuccessful coping strategies appears to be a practical intervention that can be facilitated by various people.
Students are most likely to be more successful using techniques they are comfortable with and have had prior experience using, it is important to encourage students to identify effective strategies that they already use, rather than teach them new ones. (Brannon and Feist, 2007) Surviving college involves knowing what the stresses are, understanding that it is normal to feel them and wise to get help immediately for anything that is causing distress. Research is clear that college survival is about knowing when, how and where to get help. All these interventions together can help our students through their journey with this university.