Surveys show increase in stress among college students

Monica Fesser, marketing major with a minor in communication arts also works a 35-hour per week job. She is just one of many students who report feeling stress and anxiety.

Monica Fesser is a marketing major with a minor in communication arts who also works a 35-hour per week job. She is just one of many students who report feeling stress and anxiety.

by Amanda Graham

Monica Fesser, 21, is a marketing major with a minor in communication arts, works 35 hours a week as a watch specialist for Nordstrom and recently became Alpha Chi Omega’s vice president of recruitment for the Kappa Upsilon chapter. When she is not juggling work, school and extra curricular activities, Fesser tries to find time to spend with her family and friends.

“I’d say I get a lot of anxiety with work, school and sorority life. It’s just a lot of responsibility,” she said. “Each one on its own is a job and just thinking about juggling all three at once gives me stress.”

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The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that nationwide first-year-college students’ sense of emotional well-being is at its lowest since 1985, when they first began the research. FIU students are also reporting the overwhelming pressure to succeed. In a study by the American College Health Association, FIU students said stress, anxiety, work and sleep difficulties were the top factors affecting their academic performance.

The UCLA survey points to first-year college students spending less time socializing than their parent’s generation as a possible cause for their emotional angst. In a report by Counseling and Psychological Services, 51 percent of clients report working, with six percent working more than 40 hours per week. A full-time student takes 12 credits and should set aside six to nine hours to study for each class. Therefore, a full-time student who works a part-time job should spend 48 hours studying, about 10 hours commuting, 35 hours working and a suggested 56 hours sleeping every week. That leaves only 19 hours out of the 168 hours a week to socialize, maintain a healthy lifestyle and attend to family obligations.

“If I wasn’t involved [in the sorority] and doing what I’m doing, I wouldn’t be happy,” Fesser said. “The way I cope with my stress is by taking a step back and realizing that I’m doing everything for my future. Looking at the bigger picture and being with friends helps me put everything into perspective.”

Cheryl Nowell, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, explained that knowing where your stress is coming from, learning mindfulness meditation and deep breathing techniques can reduce stress.

“Taking responsibility for the causes of stress also empowers us to make meaningful changes,” Nowell said.

Student Health Services and CAPS recommend students use academic and personal resources to more fully enjoy their college experience. SHS offers many programs to help reduce stress, including stress management consultations, aromatherapy, message therapy and acupuncture, which can help students find balance between their demands. CAPS offers both individual and group counseling, which can also help identify the source of stress and skills needed to alleviate or cope with those feelings. For some students, a daily dose of exercise is enough to make them feel less stressed.

“The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and valuing yourself enough to take the time to engage in that activity,” said Mariela Gabaroni, associate director of Student Health Services. “It is all relative to the individual, their time management and the choices they make that can facilitate their learning process.”

Other students choose to relieve stress by disconnecting from their studies and work to focus on other things – like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. As social media continues to grow in popularity, students struggle with the need to keep up on news, their friends’ posts and keeping their “likes” up. But depending on the individual, Gabaroni said social media can have positive and negative effects.

“It is great source of communication to stay in touch with people from around the world. However, it eliminates face-to-face conversations and connections. Social media is anything but social,” Gabaroni said. “It allows individuals to create a false safety net and can bring about depression and insecurity.”

Instead, she suggests students get involved in extracurricular activities as an alternative to social media to help relieve stress. As an added benefit, extracurricular activities help build resumes and create a support network of existing or new friends.

“When you’re involved, you learn time management and it has helped me balance my schedule,” Fesser said. “Getting involved has also helped me improve school work because I can always call up my sisters to study or to just meet up and relax.”