A majority of the students experience significant or even chronic amounts of stress and this can take a serious toll on their grades, happiness and overall well being. The demands of an institution like university or school, like academic demands, being away from home and friends and family in case of boarding schools and hostels, or bullying and peer pressure from other students require a lot of effort on their part to adapt, adjust and flourish. 

Moreover, a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that adolescents report stress levels as similar to those of adults. This means that often the stressors that students face may exceed their ability to cope efficiently. However, there are many techniques of stress management, and in severe cases, treatment also helps reduce the symptoms of stress considerably. 

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to adverse situations. Though stress is mostly perceived as something bad, it can in fact be good in some cases. The right kind of stress can help hone our skills and train our brain to help our body perform better and tackle tricky situations to suit our needs. Biologically, stress is a physiological reaction in our body where certain hormones are released resulting in physical manifestations of stress. 

A Brief Overview of Stress in Students and Its Types

Student life, for most, involves dealing with a significant amount of stress which takes significant tolls on health, both physical and mental, and often grades too. A well reviewed study by the American Psychology Association (APA) found that teens usually report similar levels of stress as adults. This means that teens experienced significant levels of chronic stress, and a lot of them admitted to their stress levels generally exceeding their ability to cope with it effectively. 

Usually there are three kinds of common types of student stress, or in other words, three broad categories of stress triggers:

  • Social: Social stress puts enormous peer pressure on students. This includes dealing with new relationships, living with or without family members, balancing academic life with their social life, adjusting to new environments, all of these can trigger stress in students.
  • Academic: Tight schedules, deadlines, projects and assignments, sometimes low grades, exams, managing personal chores and other academic responsibilities, challenging classes or subjects, and often overall poor time management can all lead to a extreme academic stress, just the sheer thought of not being able to finish tasks at hand can add to or cause stress in students.
  • Daily life: Often non-academic aspects can act as stress triggers too, some students take up part-time jobs which have their own stress dynamic, another common cause of stress is traffic or commute related triggers or even financial issues, and so on.

Signs and symptoms that you might be stressed:

  • If you are irritable and not enjoying whatever activity you are currently engaged in
  • If you seem anxious, fidgety and worried all the time
  • If you have a disturbed sleep schedule and have trouble sleeping
  • If you cannot concentrate and snap at people too often
  • If you feel short of breath or breathe very fast

Causes of Stress in Students

Identifying what causes stress in students can be the first step towards addressing it and eventually managing or treating it. Knowing the stress triggers and learning how to micromanage the molecular issues can help the students help experience less stress and also allows people around to support them better.

Following are the issues that can cause stress among students

  • Tests on subjects that the student finds challenging or difficult: Often, when preparing or sitting for an examination that you have scored badly in earlier, or have negative presumptions about beforehand, a student may display symptoms of stress and develop test anxiety. 
  • Overloaded by homework, projects, presentations with the added burden of group projects: Excessive workload, just as it does in the workplace, often pesters students to the extent that they may even develop stress issues. This can happen due to bad time management practices or simply because there is too much to do. 
  • A heavy workload perhaps due to their part-time job commitments: Part-time jobs are just as tiring as students’ schoolwork. More often than not, they require dull work that the students simply do not enjoy doing and are paid peas for. This could be a source of stress as well. 
  • Lack of organizational skills and poor time management: Poor time management skills and bad managerial and organizational skills renders students, or anyone, unable to handle the daily hassles of life. This leads to the development of stress. 
  • Stress due to relationships: High school and college also overlap with the time period when adolescents begin to foster intimate relationships. Any conflict in these can also lead to stress. 
  • Getting too little rest and poor sleep schedule: A poor sleep cycle is linked to numerous mental and physical health issues.
  • Lack of proper support leading to unhealthy coping mechanisms: 
  • Having difficulty transitioning to a new environment

Various effects of Stress on Students

Stress is a powerful feeling that can drive you to be successful in life, but at the same time, it can also be debilitatingly harmful. It can, if not handled properly, completely shake the foundations of your career and relationships. 

If you’re living with an uncontrollably high amount of stress, you’re not just putting your mental health at risk, you’re also very likely to have poor physical health. It is a proven fact that stressed individuals are likelier to expose themselves to pathogens of illnesses. Around 60-80% doctor visits are stress-related. This is because distress impacts our immunity levels drastically. 

Moreover, stressed students are also much more susceptible to taking part in health impairing activities such as:

  • Consuming high amounts of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • High dietary fat consumption
  • Substance abuse
  • Unsafe sexual practices
  • Risky driving
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Violent or suicidal behaviour

 Physical health problems and chronic illnesses like ulcers, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer have strong links with stress.

Few tips on managing Stress in Students

The only way to overcome stress is to learn about it. Practical stress management can help students deal with whatever worries them and eventually be more effective and productive with reduced negative feelings.

Usually students tend to have packed schedules and we are notoriously famous for skipping sleep, which leads to poor health which leads to poor hygiene and it keeps adding up until we fall ill.

Students can prevent staying in this vicious cycle by following these few tips to manage their stress:

  • Getting Organized. Getting organized is often the first step to lower your stress levels. Clutter can often cause decreased productivity, stress and even cost you money. Get soothing lights. Have a minimal indoor setup that is free of distractions.
  • Getting Enough Sleep. As stated before, a poor sleep cycle can harm a person’s mental and physical health drastically. So, cut back on your coffee intake, limit your screen time in the evening, and grab a book and go to bed at least before the clock ticks at 12. 
  • Maintaining a healthy diet, reducing eating junk food and sugar drinks. The gut-mind connection is stronger than we may give it the credit to be. A balanced diet can solve more problems than we can imagine. So, eat well and stop going for takeaways every alternate day. 
  • Getting enough exercise and getting some air and sunlight. Working out is as important as eating well. It helps release good endorphins into the system that are both immunity-boosting and help us counter stress. 
  • Listening to Music. Soothing music can help beat stress better than any other remedy. So, play some contemporary lo-fi or jazzhop or some classic Hans Zimmer or perhaps even Beethoven, if you wish, in the background when you study to beat the stress and tone down the mental chatter.
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