Students Rate Stress Number One Health Problem
Georgia State University recently received survey data from the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), where students answered over 300 questions covering various health topics. The comprehensive health survey covers questions on the following topics: health status, health problems, risky and protective health behaviors, drug use, perceived norms in areas relating to injury prevention, personal safety and violence, sexual health, weight, nutrition, exercise and mental health. The survey was distributed to a random sample of enrolled Georgia State University students. The sample was reflective of enrollment and included undergraduate and graduate students.
Surprisingly, students rated stress as the number one health problem with which they deal with on a daily basis. Stress effects students in many different ways, so it’s important to understand what stress is and to manage it appropriately.
What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. It happens when individuals question whether they have enough resources to meet the demands they face. The heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens and senses become sharper. These physical changes increase strength and stamina, speed reaction time and enhance focus. This is known as the fight or flight response and is the body’s way of protecting people. When stress is within a comfort zone, it can help individuals stay focused, energetic and alert.
When Stress has Reached an Unhealthy Level
Symptoms of stress can be viewed as the body’s intelligent way of delivering information that change is needed. Stress may show up in work or school performance, the body or moods and relationships. The informational symptoms of stress include any of the following.
Work or School Performance
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
Effects on the Body
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea, dizziness
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds or flu
Moods and Relationships
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax
- Depression or general unhappiness
- Anxiety and agitation
- Moodiness, irritability or anger
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loneliness and isolation
- Other mental or emotional health problems
Students can respond to stress in the following ways:
- Connecting with others. The simple act of talking face to face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when someone is feeling uncomfortable, unsure or unsafe. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe the nervous system.
- Examining the parts of their life in which they actually have control. Students who find themselves feeling out of control or overwhelmed can look at the things over which they do have control, such as their financial situation or their schedule. Simplifying their daily routine allows more time for relaxation, while re-organizing their finances takes some of the pressure off.
- Setting aside time for meditation. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the fight or flight or mobilization stress response.
Students who would like to speak with a counselor about their stress or anxiety should call the Counseling and Testing Center at 404-413-1640. Students may also walk over in person to the center at 75 Piedmont Ave., NE, Suite 200A, and ask for the walk-in counselor.