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Students of today may be more stressed than ever before in history. In fact, a National College Health Assessment conducted in 2015 by the American College Health Association discovered that 85.5 percent of students had feelings of being overwhelmed in the past year (ACHA/NCHA, 2014). This is, of course, unsurprising when one considers multitude of pressures the vast majority of students feel. Between getting good grades, balancing extracurricular activities with studying, and spending time with friends and family, the pressure can quickly add up. In addition, students of today have the more unique problem of managing another identity in the digital world via Social media. Which, in many ways, is a necessity in this day and age especially for those who are hoping to work in the public eye. Social media platforms are one more thing to keep up with and are often filled with stress-inducing comparisons, gossip and bullying. The stress brought about by these daily responsibilities and requirements was found to have just as substantial a role in influencing general mental health as traumatic events, such as a breakup or divorce, a death in the family, or even moving to an unfamiliar location according to a analysis published in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology in 2016 (Schönfeld, Brailovskaia, Bieda, Zhang, & Margraf, 2016).
Maintaining a positive view, remembering your goals, and self-belief are crucial to minimizing many of the negative impacts that are brought about from stress. As discussed here, counseling centers, online resources and other services can be provided by educators and administrators to aid students in coping with stress. Students who are superior at managing their stress tend to have improved engagement in the classroom with an improved ability to grasp and understand what it is that they’re learning as well as having higher chances of being able to excel beyond the classroom. Which, consequently, would increase retainment rates and benefit the schools themselves. When dealing with stress, students tend to see negative affects in three areas; decreasing sleep quality, increase in anger, and worsening grades.
Stress Decreases Sleep Quality
A report by The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that nearly 70 percent of people who state that they have persistent stress have difficulty sleeping (“Stress Management,” 2007). In addition to this, The National Sleep Foundation declares that teens require a minimum of eight hours of sleep to perform at peak performance, however, only roughly 15 percent of teens obtain a sufficient amount (Foundation, n.d.). This is especially troubling when one considers that a large percentage of college students are teenagers. Poor sleep, while damaging effect on learning, concentration, listening, problem-solving, and memory, also makes stress management more difficult thus perpetuating the problem.
Stress Makes Students Angry
According to a report released by The Mayo Clinic, stress amplifies feelings of irritability and anger, which increases the chances for angry outbursts and social withdrawal (“Stress Symptoms: Effect on body and behavior,” 2016).
In addition to the increased possibility of this anger being directed at other students, students who are stressed may be less likely to engage with instructors in a respectful manner and possibly even be resistant to following school rules. As with lack of sleep, this problem can also be self-perpetuating, the focus on anger (as well as the possible effects discussed earlier) may cause overall work to suffer and result in even more stress than was already present.
Stress Worsens Grades
Students who are stressed or preoccupied can, and often do, lose their ability to focus during lectures or studying. In severe, but all too common, cases this can cause students to drop out of classes or school entirely. In fact, It was in 2010 that the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment put out a report that said that more than 25 percent of students claim that stress reduced their grades or hindered their ability to complete a course (Assessment, 2012).
Stressors have a tendency to show up when least expected and upset memory and attention. A study by the University of Maryland found that, stress displayed by faculty had a direct affect on the stress levels of students while in the schoolroom (Melissa A. Milkie, 2011). This can be difficult for many students who are alredy dealing with stress back home or in their personal lives and do not have schoolwork as a top priority. It is because of this that it is imperative for educators to acknowledge the substantial impact stress has on teens and young adults, and labor to build a calm and supportive educational environment. University faculty who strive for their students to excel educationally should perform scheduled meetings with students and point them to counselors and/or mental health programs when required as well as educating the families of students about the harmful impact that stress can take on students.
In conclusion, stress in the life of a student is a factor that too often isn’t taken seriously enough. The need for a serious commitment to improving the overall well being of students is only going to intensify as time goes forward. With the ever-increasing competitive nature of academics as well as the mounting responsibilities that come with technology and innovation the sooner that this growing problem is confronted the better off our students and, consequently, our future, will be.
- ACHA/NCHA. (2014). Spring 2014 Reference Group Executive Summary Table of Contents.
- Assessment, N. college health. (2012). ACHA-NCHA-II_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Fall2011.pdf. Retrieved from http://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/ACHA-NCHA-II_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Fall2011.pdf
- Foundation, N. S. (n.d.). Teens and Sleep. Retrieved October 12, 2018, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep
- Melissa A. Milkie, C. H. W. (2011). Classroom Learning Environments and the Mental Health of First Grade Children. Retrieved October 12, 2018, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022146510394952
- Schönfeld, P., Brailovskaia, J., Bieda, A., Zhang, X. C., & Margraf, J. (2016). The effects of daily stress on positive and negative mental health: Mediation through self-efficacy. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 16(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijchp.2015.08.005
- Stress Management. (2007). Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/stress-and-anxiety-interfere
- Stress Symptoms: Effect on body and behavior. (2016). Retrieved October 12, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987
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