Effectiveness of Stress Management Interventions for Students

2742 words (11 pages) Essay in Psychology

08/02/20 Psychology Reference this

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Introduction

Stress can be anything that alters your natural state of balance. Stress can be described as a person’s response to a stressor such as: an environmental condition or a stimulus. Stress is a body’s way of reacting to a challenge. When stress is detected, your body and mind work simultaneously to attend to it, or order to maintain a balance. According to the stressful event, the body’s way in which it responds to stress is by sympathetic nervous system activation which results in the flight-or-flight response. Your body counters stress by releasing hormones that help you manage the situation. As a result, it takes energy away from other functions carried out by the brain, for example concentration or taking action. Not all stress can be avoided, and it is not healthy if you were to avoid a situation, that in actuality needs to be addressed. Stress is essentially unavoidable; it is a part of your every day to day lives. As we know, stress can be negative, but there are many instances when stress can be helpful as well. However, when stress is experienced in excess, it can harm our physical and emotional health and limit our ability to function at home, in class, and within out relationships.

Stress that students experience, stem from a large number of factors, it isn’t just down to one thing. For example, majority of the time students worry about meeting deadline dates. They are told that in order to prevent this stress they should be more organized and focus on time management.  However, this is easier said than done when so many students have to deal with family life as well as work and study, not to mention things like health and money just to name a few. Trying to manage all these things at once can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

The college years have often been called “the greatest years of our lives” due to the fact that there is rarely a time when people learn so much, meet so many people, and experience so many new things at one time. For many young students however, it is possible that college could also end up being the most stressful years of their lives. With that being said, the target population for this stress management intervention will be college students.

 

Literature Review

Evaluating an Online Stress Management Intervention for College Students

In a study done by Hintz et al (2014), they evaluated an online stress management intervention for college students. Given the extent of challenges and new experiences students are faced with during their undergraduate education, it is not out of the ordinary that this period in their lives can be met with a substantial amount of stress. Hintz et al (2014) states that this stress results/relates to poorer mental health outcomes, including depression and anxiety. 

Hintz et al (2014) was able to examine previous studies before they began implementation of their own. They found that in one study of 13,700 undergraduates attending one of 17 Midwestern secondary schools, 45% of students reported experiencing at least two major stressors in the past 12 months, and 26% reported that they were unable to manage their stress (Lust et al., 2010). Another study revealed that more than 80% of students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do (American College Health Association, 2012). Among undergraduates, those who reported higher stress levels were less likely to participate in exercise regularly, more likely to consume junk foods and soft drinks and less likely to consume fruits and vegetables, and more likely to consume junk food and soft drinks. Hintz et al (2014) states that stress is also associated with significant mental health problems. This includes higher levels of depression and anxiety symptoms.

With that being said, given the prevalence of stress and its relation to negative mental health outcomes, Hintz et al (2014) concluded that, it may not be surprising that nearly one out of three undergraduates report clinical levels of distress. The reasoning behind, Hintz et al (2014) online stress management intervention was due to the fact that many students on campus do not seek help, partially because they have no time to and the stigma related to counselling. For me personally, I did not feel comfortable opening up to a stranger and going all the way to campus for a session because I did not feel like I had the time to do so; I also felt like why would a stranger care about my problems in the grand scheme of things. For reasons like these, they felt that internet-based interventions are one solution to this problem. Online web-based interventions can take various forms but often contain education delivered via text, video or audio, assignments, and personalized feedback.  

Effectiveness of a brief stress management intervention in male college students

 

In a study completed by Kim et al (2016) they examined the effectiveness of a brief stress management intervention in specifically, Korean, male college students. They believe that while transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, college students face multiple stressful situations. These include, but are not limited to: adapting to university life, academic overload, constant pressure to succeed, and concerns about the future. In this study, they came to the rationalization that out of the stress areas in this period, concerns regarding academic achievement and the future were reported to be the most stressful among Korean college students.

Kim et al (2016) concluded that high levels of stress are significantly associated with emotional and behavioral problems among college students. This includes: depression, aggression, and alcohol consumption. Additionally, they believe that academic stress has been associated with anxiety and suicidal ideation. However, not enough appropriate programs are available to support their mental health. They examined a previous study of cortisol responses to stress conditions. In this study it was found that men were more physiologically reactive to achievement related stressors, whereas women were more reactive to social stressors. In conclusion, the study they developed was a brief stress management intervention for enhancing coping effort. Given the evidence, they developed a short-term group program for stress management based primarily on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and examined its effects.

MyStudentBody–Stress: An Online Stress Management Intervention for College Students

 

In another study done by Chiauzzi et al (2008) they implemented an online stress management intervention for college students. They stated that college students are particularly prone to stress. They looked at previous surveys which indicated that the level of student distress has been increasing in recent years and that student medication use has increased fivefold (Schwartz, 2006). They found that not only do students appear to be arriving at college feeling frequently overwhelmed, but for a number of students such distress does not dissolve during later college years. An American College Health Association (ACHA, 2007) survey of more than 16,000 college students found that 33.7% reported that stress interfered with their academic performance, as evidenced by missing classes, receiving lower grades, or dropping courses. Stress and maladaptive coping strategies consistently are associated with both physical and mental illnesses. They believe that stress results in sleep difficulties, psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and high-risk behaviors.

Chiauzzi et al (2008) found that the literature on stress management is full with calls for programs to help college students manage stress, but there is a scarcity of programmatic studies examining the effectiveness of stress management programs with healthy populations of college students. As a result, health professionals have begun using computer programs to educate students about health behavior. In conclusion, their field trial compared MyStudentBody–Stress, an interactive, online stress intervention for college students, with a text-based website containing stress information and an assessment-only condition.

Stress Interventions for First-Year Undergraduate Students

In a study done by Allen (2016), she explored stress interventions for first year undergraduate students. She found that previous research has found that first-year undergraduate students experience the highest level of academic stress compared to students in upper years. She concluded that academic demands such as: course overload and academic evaluation are perceived as incredibly stressful among university students with examinations provoking the highest level of stress. As well, additional research on stress interventions have found that utilizing a cognitive behavioral component and a relaxation technique will result in the lowest levels of stress. She examined previous research studies on ways to improve and reduce the stress experience among individuals and found that stress intervention methods, are effective at reducing stress among individuals (Murphy, 1996).

Based on her findings, in order to examine the effectiveness of stress intervention methods, she implemented a stress management intervention where first-year undergraduate students were asked to participate in a stress reduction intervention that either included a single or multiple intervention methods. Participants were randomly assigned to watch either an educational video on stress or a video about how stress can be positive. Participants were also randomly assigned to participate in either an autogenic relaxation technique or not.

Meditation Lowers Stress and Supports Forgiveness Among College Students: A Randomized

Controlled Trial

In another study done by Oman et al (2008), they evaluated whether meditation lowers stress and supports forgiveness among college students. They looked at previous studies which indicated that in 2004, stress was the most commonly identified impediment to academic performance, cited by one-third (32%) of nearly 50,000 students surveyed at 74 US campuses. Oman et al (2008) believes that an important developmental task for college students is learning to manage excess or unnecessary distress while actively engaging with healthy, age-appropriate challenges that promote growth.

Therefore, in their study, they used a prospective randomized controlled design to evaluate the effects of 2 variants of an 8-week training in stress management. They evaluated the effects of 2 meditation-based programs on undergraduates’ stress and well being.

Intervention/Program

The program which I am implementing will consist of an online web based stress management intervention. Internet based interventions can be self paced or completed according to a predetermined time schedule. A recent survey revealed that only 10% of sampled individuals were unwilling to try an online intervention (Klein & Cook, 2010). Interventions like this may be particularly suitable for college students given their widespread adoption of technology and access to the Internet (Smith, Rainie, & Zickuhr, 2011). Internet based interventions seem like a promising solution in comparison to face to face counselling sessions. Students may feel less inclined to seek help on campus due to lack of time and not being comfortable opening up to someone face to face. Importantly, in one study, although students’ likelihood of seeking help went down with increasing distress, intention to use online interventions went up (Ryan, Shochet, & Stallman, 2010). In addition, online interventions do not require individuals to travel to a physical location to receive care, are less expensive to deliver, and maintain privacy for those sensitive to perceived stigma (Amstadter et al., 2009). Computer based programs offer a confidential and nonjudgmental experience that may increase the potential for students to disclose personal information.

I feel like it would be appropriate for this stress management intervention to span an entire semester, from beginning to end. This way, the participants will be able to reflect on whether they’ve made improvements and adjustments when school first started and their stress levels may not have been high in comparison to the end of school when it is exam season.

This stress management intervention will consist of a variety of activities in hopes to ultimately reduce stress levels and teach college students ways in which they can cope. I want this program to have components that are: educational, experiential, and reflective.

The educational component will consist of modules. I want these modules to include video clips of professionals who provide information about the specific topic for the module. The experiential portion comes into play when the participants have to participate in application exercises (much like the ones we have been doing as part of our Homework Assignments). The reflective portion will consist of journal entries. The journal entries don’t have to be long by any means, it can even be one or two sentences reflecting on their day or if something good happened to them that day, basically anything.   

Limitations/Concerns

 

When implementing my stress management intervention, I might want to consider the year of study the participants are currently in. I think generalizing won’t be as effective and it would make the most sense to have an even distribution of students from first year to fifth year. That way I’ll be able to identify any trends throughout the years, for example if students are more likely to face high levels of stress in their first year in comparison to students in their third year.

One concern that may arise in this intervention is that outcomes would be assessed by self report measures. It would be beneficial to include more objective measures for instance, measures on academic performance as a result of this stress management intervention. Another concern would be the follow of assessment. I didn’t really include a follow up; it was more to see if there was difference in stress levels from the beginning of the semester until the end. I think it would be interesting to see whether we could track a student from first year all the way to their final year.  

As far as the logistical concerns, there won’t be any limits as to where and when the stress management can be held since it will all take place online.

References

  • Allen, Shawna N., “Stress Interventions for First-Year Undergraduate Students” (2016). Undergraduate Honours Theses. 16.
  • American College Health Association. (2012). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2012. Retrieved from http://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/ACHANCHAII_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Spring2012.pdf
  • American College Health Association (ACHA). (2007). National college health assessment: Reference group executive summary, Fall 2006. Baltimore, MD: Author.
  • Amstadter, A. B., Broman-Fulks, J., Zinzow, H., Ruggiero, K. J., & Cercone, J. (2009). Internet-based interventions for traumatic stressrelated mental health problems: A review and suggestion for future research. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 410–420. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2009.04.001
  • Emil Chiauzzi, Julie Brevard , Christina Thurn , Stacey Decembrele & Sarah Lord (2008) MyStudentBody–Stress: An Online Stress Management Intervention for College Students, Journal of Health Communication, 13:6, 555-572, DOI:10.1080/10810730802281668
  • Hintz, S., Frazier, P. A., & Meredith, L. (2014, March 17). Evaluating an Online Stress Management Intervention for College Students. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cou0000014
  • Kim S, Lee H, Kim H, Noh D, Lee H. Effects of an Integrated Stress Management Program(ISMP) for psychologically distressed students: a randomized controlled trial. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2016;52(3):178–185. doi:10.1111/ppc.12114
  • Klein, B., & Cook, S. (2010). Preferences for e-mental health services amongst an online Australian sample. E-Journal of Applied Psychology,6, 28–39. doi:10.7790/ejap.v6i1.184
  • Lust, K., Ehlinger, E., & Golden, D. (2010). College student health survey report: Health and health-related behaviors Minnesota postsecondary students. Retrieved from http://www.bhs.umn.edu/surveys/index.htm
  • Murphy, L. R. (1996). Stress Management in Work Settings: A Critical Review of the Health Effects. American Journal of Health Promotion, 11(2), 112-135.
  • Oman, D., Shapiro, S., Thoresen, C., & Plante, T. (2008). Meditation Lowers Stress and Supports Forgiveness Among College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of American College Health , 56 (5), 569-578.
  • Ryan, M. L., Shochet, I. M., & Stallman, H. M. (2010). Universal online interventions might engage psychologically distressed university students who are unlikely to seek formal help. Advances in Mental Health,9, 73–83.
  • Schwartz, A. J. (2006). Are college students more disturbed today? Stability in the acuity and
  • qualitative character of psychopathology of college counseling center clients: 1992–1993 through 2001–2002. Journal of American College Health, 54, 327–337.
  • Smith, A., Rainie, L., & Zickuhr, K. (2011). College students and technology. Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Collegestudents-and-technology/Report.aspx
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