Stress and anxiety
Many college students don’t realize that they are under too much stress– or write it off as normal—until it’s too late. Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand. Every type of demand or stressor—such as exercise, work, school, major life changes, or traumatic events—can be stressful. Stress can affect your health. It is important to pay attention to how you deal with minor and major stress events so that you know when to seek help.
What to know about stress
Stress affects everyone
Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Some people may cope with stress more effectively or recover from stressful events more quickly than others. There are different types of stress—all of which carry physical and mental health risks. A stressor may be a one time or short term occurrence, or it can be an occurrence that keeps happening over a long period of time.
Examples of stress include:
- Routine stress related to the pressures of work, school, family, and other daily responsibilities
- Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness
- Traumatic stress experienced in an event like a major accident, war, assault, or a natural disaster where people may be in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. People who experience traumatic stress often experience temporary symptoms of mental illness, but most recover naturally soon after
Not all stress is bad
Stress can motivate people to prepare or perform, like when they need to take a test or interview for a new job. Stress can even be life-saving in some situations. In response to danger, your body prepares to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival.
Different people may feel stress in different ways. For example, some people experience mainly digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger or irritability. People under chronic stress are prone to more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold.
Long-term stress can harm your health
Health problems can occur if the stress response goes on for too long or becomes chronic, such as when the source of stress is constant, or if the response continues after the danger has subsided.
There are ways to manage stress
The effects of stress tend to build up over time.Taking practical steps to manage your stress can reduce or prevent these effects. You may want to: talk to your doctor, get regular exercise, try a relaxing activity, set goals and priorities and/or stay connected with supportive people.
Signs of stress
- Low energy
- Upset stomach
- Aches and pains
- Rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds
- Becoming easily agitated, and frustrated
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Having difficulty relaxing
- Low self-esteem
- Avoiding others
If you're overwhelmed, ask for help
You should seek help right away if you have suicidal thoughts, are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope.Your doctor may be able to provide a recommendation.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Mental health information, resources and research
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Five things you should know about stress (print-only)
- Stress presentation (print-only)
- Stress flyer (print-only)