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Stress & Anxiety

College can cause good and bad stress. Anxiety can set in when trying to balance school, work, friends, and family, while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your life. If intense, and uncontrollable anxiety gets in the way of  your daily activities, this  may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety impacts about 40 million American adults (about 18 percent) each year. (It causes them to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.)

Nationally, anxiety is a common mental-health problem, but studies have shown that 80 percent of college students frequently suffer daily stress, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Common Causes of Stress

Outside causes of stress typically include:
  • Major life changes (like going to college or switching majors)
  • Work
  • Relationship challenges
  • Issues with money
  • Being over scheduled
  • Family

Internal reasons for stress include:

  • Difficulty tolerating uncertainty
  • A pessimistic world view
  • Negative self-talk
  • Unrealistic expectations like being perfect
  • Not asserting your needs to others
Signs and Symptoms
Here are some possible signs that indicate your stress has become problematic for you:

Emotional symptoms:
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability
  • Having a short temper
  • Agitation
  • Inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation  Depression or general unhappiness

Behavioral symptoms:
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol/cigarettes/drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing) 
Physical symptoms:
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds 
Cognitive symptoms:
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
What Can You Do About It?
Some ways to avoid stress are to:
  • Take good care of yourself – The basics really do help, try to balance your diet and start a regular exercise routine.
  • Get plenty of rest – It may seem impossible to do this in college, but try and get to bed at consistent times and shoot for up to eight hours each night.
  • Avoid too much caffeine
  • Avoid or quit smoking
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
What to do if stress is overwhelming you:
  • Explore new ways of thinking or doing things, e.g. Is what you are stressed about within your control? What are some concrete ways that you can break up the tasks or problems in front of you so they are more manageable? Take time to prioritize your goals and focus on achieving the most important ones.
  • Talk to friends or someone you trust
  • Ask for help. Prolonged stress can lead to an anxiety disorder or depression. Call Counseling and Psychological Services to speak to a counselor or speak with Academic Support Services for tips on time-management skills. 
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