Do extracurricular programs reduce the stress of students

4247 words (17 pages) Essay in Psychology

5/12/16 Psychology Reference this

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Life as a student is resplendent with assignments, essays and study. Not to mention all the extracurricular activities that has to be done. Of course, as a student, a common problem that can’t be avoided is feeling stress. In the beginning of this paper, it will discuss and explain about stress and source of stress. Studies and statistical evidence are given to proof that students around the world are facing the same problem; stress. Next, this paper will discuss about how stress is reduced. There are some method such as the coping strategies, General Adaptation Syndrome and theory of relaxation. In this part of the paper, we will go through these ways of coping in details and relate it to the life of a student. The students can use these methods to help them reducing, deal with the stress.

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The conclusion of this essay will evaluate and conclude about the stress reducing ways. Most of the student can’t handle their stress because they said that there are no ways to confront stress, but this essay clearly shows that there are ways that can be used to cope with stress. In the end, this essay emphasized the importance of coping with stress as it helps students to do well in their academic. With clear understanding, maybe students will not experience stress as appalling as today in the future.

A research entitled “College’s Students’ Academic Stress and Its Relation to Their Anxiety, Time Management And Leisure Satisfaction” conducted by Dr. Ranjita Misra(PhD CHES) [1] and Michelle McKean [2] among 249 Midwestern University undergraduates. Respondent were randomly chosen from the university index list. The research shows that the stress among the college’s students highly increases nationwide (Sax, 1997). Students reported stress at the peak at predictable times each semester with the most sources of academic stress resulting from rank competition, the bulky amount of content to master in a little amount of time and taking and studying for exams (Abouserie, 1994; Archer & Lamnin, 1985; Britton & Tesser, 1991; Kohn & Frazer, 1986). When stress is professed depressingly or becomes too much, students experience physical and psychological harm (Murphy & Archer, 1996). Generally, higher stress was experienced as a result of self-imposed stress and pressure, not because of conflict, dissatisfaction and pressure. The result of the research also shows that in general, female students facing less stressful moment than male students, proven that female students deal with their stress better, some correlation can be seen based on how they perceived stress, manage their time well, more than the male students. Leisure activities such as sports, singing, hanging out with friends and doing community services successfully trim down academic stress among college students. Apart from that, an aesthetic surroundings and recreation benefits also contributed to lessen stress. Tested in the research, time management behaviours had greater effect to minimize academic stress compared to outdoor activities (leisure, sports, and community services). But it is also different between male and female students. Previous studies have shown that problem solving is an important coping strategy that can reduce, minimize, or prevent stress by enabling a person to better manage daily problematic situations and their emotional effects (D’Zurilla & Sheedy, 1991).

There are proofs that extracurricular activities can helps to decrease the stress experienced by the students but the research also shown that extracurricular activities is not the best way that can be make use of by students to lessen their stress. In MARA College Banting (MCB), the extracurricular activities are known as the CAS programme. CAS is the abbreviation for creative, action and services. Every MCB students are required to do 180 hours of CAS programmes. As students, they can’t escape themselves from studying and not to mention, the stress. CAS programmes should help the MCB students to reduce their stress but how and to what extend does this programme help.


Stress is quite similar with the concept of love. It can be felt, but it can’t be described. It is the state of being in pressure resulted from things that happening around them. According to Hans Selye, stress is a concept which has suffered from the mixed blessing of being too well known and too little understood [3] . Well, parents talk about the burden raising children, teachers talk about the pressure in school, workers talk about low salary and students talk about the endless assignments. These are the indicator that stress is everywhere. Selye also divided stress into two, named them eustress and distress. Eustress refers to the positive stress where it is essential to have this kind of stress. Example of eustress is feeling nervous about getting married or feeling nervous about scoring a penalty in a football match. Meanwhile, distress is the negative stress, which is not good to one’s health. Example of distress is worrying because not ready for examination or failing a test.

Sources of Stress

There are many sources or things that can be the source of stress. The changes, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, that happen around us can appear to be the source of stress. Deaths, family, studies, workplace, all this have their own contribution to stress. Traumatic events such as death or natural disaster (floods, drought, and tornado) can be last longer and give more impact to one person. It can happen directly or indirectly to a stressor. Some research shown that stress cause by daily activities can be more stressful compared to main events such as death. Missed a bus or forgot where you keep your keys can be really tense to some people.

How Stress Is Reduced

Blazing the trail, we are going to look at the General Adaptation Syndrome, also known as GAS, identified by Selye (1976). GAS is a non-specific physiological reaction that occurs to a range of nerve-racking stimuli. Overall, the GAS is divided into three phases. The first phase of GAS is the Alarm Reaction. Basically, the stimuli that causes stress is detected, the hypothalamus of the brain reacts in two ways: it activates pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), stimulated adrenal gland to activate adrenal cortex to release corticosteroids and this will hinder immune system reaction, inhibits tissue irritation and releases energy from the liver. The other reaction of the hypothalamus is it activates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, makes the adrenal gland to release adrenaline and noradrenaline, preparing the person with flight or fights reactions of increased heart and breathing rate, includes blood pressure and muscle tension. Usually phase one takes place without one realising it, except if they were in emergency such as being punish or involved in a fight. Stage two comes to pass after Alarm Reaction, which is called the Stage of Resistance, where the body retain arousal at a lower level. This stage however, is different depends on the individual itself. Behavioural coping style maybe different between two individual. Optimal arousal theory states that up to a level stress can provide a beneficial motivating effect that helps deal with the source of stress. Mentioned earlier, different people use different coping strategies, some exploit problem-focused strategies and deal with the source of stress and some become accustomed to emotion-focused strategies and try to deal with its effects. Besides, some people have ‘type A’ personality that create and maintain high level of stress in their life (Friedman and Rosenman, 1974). These people are usually insistent, spirited and highly obsessed perfectionists who will not entrust and are intolerant towards others. Hardy personality (Kobasa, 1979) suggests that people that people are less exposed to end product of stress because they have vast sense of control over, more positive attitude towards nerve-racking dealings. Controlling the sense during the stressful event can helps to reduce the effects of stress. Apart from that, gender and cultural factors may be at variance in the sum and category of stress experienced. For example, men that socialize more may have less difficult to deal with their stress. Let’s go into phase three, the Stage Of Exhaustion, where in this phase, the person’s body will eventually get exhausted and turn out negative physiological and psychological effects. Apparently, stress can reduce the immune system and exposed the body to more infections such as ulcer (Brady, 1958), asthma (Miller and Strunk, 1979), colds (Stone et al, 1987) and cancer (Jacobs and Charles, 1980). Somehow, stress prompted the heart rate and blood pressure, worsen and jamming the blood vessel hence increasing the cardiovascular disorder. Over three thousand men that have the ‘type A’ personality were more likely to be ill with heart diseases (Rosenman et al, 1975). Any student or person will likely to have anger and frustration as part of their manner to lessen stress. Some person that can’t deal with it well are more exposed to depression and helplessness where this can comes together with anxiety, that is generally, too bad to our health.

As described earlier, as part of the fight or flight situations, our body will releases hormones and many neurotransmitters. For aid adaptation and survival, these are crucial. Mentioned previously, when facing a stressor, the parasympathetic nervous system will response and these is intended as the adaptive response to force the body into actions and to do more physical activities, where we maybe experience some anger or fear or increasing respiration rates. Furthermore, being physically fit also engages with reduced risk for many conditions including heart disease and stroke. While doing physical activities, the extra chemicals released as a result of experiencing stress are used up. This will make a feeling of relaxation occur, after a period of exercise. Exercise is very beneficial to the body but some still find it difficult to find time, and that is why CAS programmes are planned for all students. Doing activities with partners is really useful, provided that one must try to include exercise schedule into their daily routine. Exercise actually acts like an antidepressant and boost up one’s mood. But question is, why? This has urged a group of doctors from Nottingham Trend University to make research about this. The researchers suggest that a chemical named phenyl ethylamine could play a role. This chemical has been related to regulation of physical energy, attention and mood where it will be change into phenyl acetic acid by an enzyme. It is proven that the biological fluids in depressed patient have low level of both substances. In the first attempt to test the influence of exercise on levels of the chemical, they found out that level of the chemical increased by 76.8% after exercise. The test was conducted on twenty healthy men, with a standard age of 22. All repeatedly did around four hours of fair to hard aerobic and anaerobic exercise every week. Before they start the study, they abstained from exercise for a day, and a urine test was completed to check for levels of phenyl acetic acid, the most precise amount of the chemical. Exercised for half an hour on a treadmill at 70% of maximum heart capability is good since mood changes are usually reported at that level. Proven by the urine levels, it was found that phenyl acetic acid levels were increased in 18 of the 20 men. Quoted from one of the researcher from Nottingham Trent University, Dr. Ellen Billet [4] said: “We are quite sure that there may be an effect of exercise on phenyl ethylamine. We also recognized that modest exercise has these positive effects.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the mental health charity said that physical exercise has a compelling place in the management and avoidance of some mental health problems. In a latest survey of gym customers, 75% said they exercised to trim down their stress levels and 67% said they used exercise to retain their mental health. She also is calling for all doctors to offer exercise sessions on recommendation to patients with mental health problems, predominantly as we know that the majority people with mental health problems don’t know this non-drug treatment alternative exists.

A progressive muscle relaxation has proven to give highly effective stress reduced. By carry out relaxation, it prop up the parasympathetic nervous system activities and thus restore functioning and promotes rest. Some of the students in KMB practice a yoga-like doings and tai-chi (a type of traditional Chinese method to relax), and surprisingly, it works. They just spent only about thirty minutes in the evening, and I believe that is not impossible to be done.

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The common thing that students do when they try to deal with stress is, they tend to eat a lot. Well, to some people it does ease their stress but it is actually not a good thing to be done. What can really help is to control the food that we eat. Scrupulously, food materials such as nicotine and caffeine (also known as sympathomimetics) stimulate the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system. As a result, they boost blood pressure, heart rate and metabolic rate, where these can help the body system to be more reactive to stress especially when we are out in the open to a stressor. For instance, doing a ToK presentation, the student will feel more anxious and diminished performance. Biologically, stress can have an effect on absorption of certain vitamins. The release of cortisol (a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal gland) for example, occurs following sympathetic nervous system activation requires the use of B-complex vitamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, and pyridoxine hydrochloride. Over a period of persistent stress, the supply of these vitamins in the body will lessen. And when that happens, the body cannot support or handle the cause of stress; it reduces the effectiveness to stressor. This possibly will results in adverse physical symptoms such as stomach ache, muscular weakness and physical mayhem (insomnia, depression, anxiety). To make sure that the body get all that it needs, eat fortified cereals, vegetables, fruits, fish as well as liver as it contains the B-complex vitamins. As for vitamin C, eat a lot of cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes and any other citrus fruits that you would like. Not to be forgotten, exposed to constant stress can direct to lower calcium level as it mess about the calcium absorption in the intestine. Vitamin B-complex are also needed in processed flour and ingesting sugars. Ability to response to stressor minimize due to the rundown of stores of cortisol. Stress itself helps to raise blood sugar level because it has known that exposure to continual stress have an adverse effect on the production of insulin in the body. This occurrence may elucidate why diabetes mellitis occurs to some people. It’s a insulin producing disorder. People whose had a sodium related disorder, may affected by salt, increasing the body to preserve fluid. The subsequent increase in blood pressure while facing the stressor may leave the person at higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

Cognitive restructuring is another method that can help to release stress. Is it a method where negative thought, misconception or absurd thinking that facilitate stressful reaction are replaced with more positive, realistic and practical thought that helps to reduce the person’s judgment of menace or mischief. Two approaches that have been widely use by therapist to help restructuring thoughts are the Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy and Albert Ellis’ rational emotive therapy. In addition, there is also another system known as the stress-inoculation, developed by Donald Meichenbaum. It involves a few steps which are conceptualisation, skills acquisition and rehearsal, and application and follow through. First of all, the person learns about the nature of stress and how people react to it, taking examples from own personal experiences will be helpful. Then, find out the range of cognitive and behavioural techniques including cognitive restructuring, relaxation, and how to get community support (friends, teachers and family). Respond to stressors introduced in therapy in a categorized progression and be present at the follow-up sessions (Meichenbaum and Deffenbacher, 1988).

About the self-control, one must believe in their self that they can change what is happening to them, which will make it better in favour of them to deal with the stress. On the other hand, a person will find it more difficult to muddle through the stress if they keep thinking that it is out of their control or it is fated. People tend to only bear in mind about the negative side of things. For instance, rather than thinking that a forthcoming presentation as a prospect of failing, think of it as a chance to improve your public speaking. You may not know everything about something, but try to concentrate on the things that you know and possibly will be surprised about the outcome.

How do we think, is what we can control. Try to use thought stopping method. It is very easy yet efficient in lessen stress. It is important that every time a negative thought appears, stop it, and tell yourself that you will not tolerate yourself to have pessimistic thoughts. At the same time, stop, relax, and try to breathe. Practise relaxation method. It has some sensation effect that will act as a supporter to bring to an end to the negative thought.

Have you ever saw a group of people laughing while you were jogging? Don’t worry, they are not crazy. Maybe the term “laughter is the best medicine” is quite common in our daily life today. It has been well known that laughter can minimize stress. Researchers found out that humour in reaction to stressful situation brings many advantages. Laughter can turn out in physiological changes including an increase in heart rate, oxygen exchange and muscle activities (sympathetic nervous system activity). This can direct to an eventual reduction in these activities to beneath baseline producing a state of relaxation, which is the parasympathetic nervous system activation. Therefore, if you are feeling stress after the hard study time, while doing CAS activities, have a laugh with your friends.

I am quite sure that every student have been exposed to, at least once, a motivational talk about how to plan their time. If you are smart, you will plan and manage your time effectively as it helps to get rid of stress. For instance, if you are feeling stress because you have a placement interview, do not turn up late at the interview place. This will buy you some time to relax and to do some relaxation, it really helps. Similarly, if you cannot finish you work or study in your room for the reason that you kept been distracted, arrange your time efficiently and try to find time to study in the library or anywhere that you feels comfortable. It surely can help to lessen stress and helps to focus more.

One more thing that is essential to help reduce stress is the social support that can be gained from friends, teachers and family. Stress effects are lowered with a good social support group. That is why, an excellent and healthy relationship with friends, teachers and family are vital. People, who are friendless and alone, are more risky to stress and also mental related problems. For example, a recent survey shows that two third of the people affected by mental illness, admit that they feeling lonely all the time or often. This survey was made in Australia. In addition to friends and teachers, besides family, CAS programme at the local community centre provide the opportunity to have a healthy social relations. The social support is like a central coping technique. It possibly will work in two ways which is the buffering effect or the direct effect. The buffering effect shields a person from the unfavourable effects of stress. In the other hand, the direct effect may be priceless and positive in its own right. Both model of effect is acceptable and reveals multiple paths through which stress and even health outcomes are influenced (Cohen and Wills, 1985). Actually, it might be better to consider social support in a system context. This is the connection between the person and social support is a continuous matter that engages two-way feedback of both negative and positive feeling. One thing that will surely helps is exercise regulatory or disregulatory effects on the other as the connection continues (Leavy, 1983). Well, if one just depends on the social support to minimize their stress, it may have only minute effect, but when pooled with other relaxation techniques, it has enormous effect. According to Schultz and Saklofske (1983), the quantity of the social support is not as important as the quality of it. A person, who received a low quality social support, although it was more than enough, was reported feeling more alone than a person who had a little but higher quality of social support. The importance of social support might be different, depends on the type of cause of stress. Various stressors that never experienced by others are faced by families with handicapped member (Yablin, 1986) and they seeming benefit from their social supports (Kirkham, Schilling, Norelius and Schinke, 1986). Plus, families dealing with illness seem to be much better when they have strong social support contrast to those who has no such support (Shapiro, 1983). A research reported that men with AIDS and AIDS-related problems experience increased distress whey they were not given enough support (Zich and Temoshok, 1987). Social support also seems to be a buffer against severe coronary artery disease in ‘type A’ personalities (Blumenthal et al., 1987).

Students should have their own stand, their own attitude and principles. It is not only for self confidence, but also in helping to reduce stress. The use of religious practise and spiritual beliefs is a neglected element of strategies of cope with stress. Noted that the religious group support are strong whose influence has not been appropriately assessed. A research conducted by Higher Education Research Institute, University of California found out that college students who take part in religious and spiritual activities are more possible to have a better stress level than students who didn’t participate in religious activity at all. Besides that, students who did not join religious activities are more twofold more likely to be reported with mental health and depression compared to students who attended religious activities constantly. According to Alexander Astin [5] , co-principal investigator for the research involving 3,680 third-year college students, sense of psychological well-being of one also contributed by being religious and spiritual. Those who play a part in religious conduct also are less likely to undergo overwhelmed during classes. Examples of religious activities are reading holy texts, joining religious organization and attending religious activities. These result are vital because psychological well-being becomes lesser throughout the duration, Astin says. One out of five students has consult the counsellor for personal counselling since becoming the students there, and 77% of the students claim seeming depressed regularly or irregularly during the years before. No more than 61% of the students were feeling depressed commonly or rarely when they first started college. This is still a very high number since official statistics signify that only 25% of the population suffers from depression. These are all related, feeling good about your life and high self esteem has a connection to high degree of spiritual. The research labelled spirituality as desiring to assimilate religion into one’s life, believing in the purity of life and having divine experiences. But the study too finds that extremely spiritual students are more exposed to experience spiritual distress, or feeling anxious about pious, than students who aren’t actively religious. Being religious also could play a part in whether someone starts to swig drinks that contains alcohol while in college. More than 70% of students who don’t drink alcohol before registered in college won’t set off in college if they got themselves in religious doings, the study reported, but only less than that of students will go on to give up if not occupied religiously. The question that arises is whether the students who do religious activities have really healthy psychological or healthy psychological students who go and seek for religious activities. The research also unearthed that 77% of college students pray, 78% have a discussion about religious conviction with acquaintances, and 76% are looking for significance and reason in life.

Last but not least, the relaxation using words also helps. For example, “relax”, “take it easy” and “chill out” are commonly used by us. These words form the important part of cue-controlled relaxation. The secret is effortless; the repeated words will enable the body to do the response automatically. The process is something that we want to control, and we can control it. The words act as a signal for the body to do the required response. It triggers the response of relaxation. Yes, maybe at first, it doesn’t mean anything. But after the words have been connected to the relaxation, it will induce the response directly. Just say the words and relax.

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