Stress Management

Facts

  • 74.9% of ASU students reported experiencing stress within the last school year.
  • 27.4% of ASU students reported that stress affected their academic performance.
  • 29.6% of ASU students reported that being overcommitted affected their academic performance.
  • 27.3% of ASU students reported that being overcommitted had a high or very high effect on their stress levels.

ASU students reported the following items as having a high or very high affect on their stress level within the last school year:

  • 36.6%  academic responsibilities
  • 27.3%  being overcommitted
  • 21.2% career-related issues
  • 20.4%  financial concerns
  • 17.6% personal emotional issues

American College Health Association.  American College Health Association-National College Health Assessent:  Arizona State University Spring 2011.  Baltimore: American College Health Association; Spring 2011 (n=1,748)

Stress

Stress is the way we react or respond physically, mentally, and/or emotionally to various conditions, changes, and demands of life.

The stress we experience is rooted in the “fight or flight” response, during which our bodies undergo physical changes that prepare us to respond to an exciting or dangerous situation. Once the situations has passed or is under control, our stress response subsides, allowing us to relax.

However, the constant demands of academic or personal life can prevent us from becoming fully relaxed and can lead to stress overload.

Top Stressors for ASU Students

Stressors are demands from the internal (self) or external (environment) that have the potential to produce stress. Factors or events, either real or imagined, can create a state of stress.

Stressors can generally be divided into two classes:

  • Ongoing everyday chronic stressors
  • Isolated or major events

Ongoing everyday chronic stressors for college students can be grouped into the following categories:

  • School
  • Time
  • Money
  • Relationships

Ongoing everyday chronic stressors for college students can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Leaving home
  • Balancing changing roles: student, employee, child, significant other

The Good and Bad of Stress

While not all students report that stress affects their academic performance negatively, stress-related behaviors and conditions, such as sleep difficulties, anxiety and depression are cited by ASU students as factors that impede academic performance.

Most students at ASU experience stress-related symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed, feeling exhausted not from physical activity and feeling very sad. Such feelings are common in college life and many students are able to manage their stress and reduce these stress symptoms.

Some students struggle more with stress. These students experience feelings of distress, such as feeling so depressed it is difficult to function and seriously considering and/or attempting suicide. These feelings are not common and are an indication that the student is in need of assistance from family, friends, and professional staff.

Stress is not always bad and can be motivating and energizing. Stress about school can motivate students to study to achieve the grades they desire. Being strapped for money can motivate students to work harder to get a promotion or a better paying job. Relationship conflicts or stress in a relationship can motivate students to build communication skills. Having a busy schedule can motivate students to prioritize and clear up their calendar for important activities.

Symptoms of Stress May Include

  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Increased anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Moodiness or change in temperament
  • General irritability
  • Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
  • Restlessness or fatigue
  • A change in behavior or routines

Managing Stress

Developing healthy coping skills is important to stress management. Healthy habits can reduce stress overload. Be sure you are getting enough sleep, taking time for fun and relaxation, prioritizing physical fitness and health eating and practicing effective time management strategies.

  • Prioritize, take charge, and be flexible when confronted with challenges.
  • Develop your skills: communication skills, study and writing skills, test taking skills can all assist in lowering stress levels.
  • Manage your time: Use a planner to schedule class work and keep track of upcoming deadlines.
  • Regulate your emotions: Recognize that feeling strong emotions is not bad but normal. Find ways to lower anger and frustration such as counting to 100, saying the ABC’s and positive self talk.
  • Use healthy coping strategies: be physically active, read an enjoyable book, get a massage, etc. Avoid coping strategies that put your safety in jeopardy such as driving dangerously, consuming alcohol or using other substances that can impede judgment and health.
  • Implement a relaxation practice: deep breathing, yoga, meditation, anything that helps your mind and body relax.

Stress Management Links

Resources for Stress Management
College Student’s Stressful Events Skills Checklist
Personal Wellness Profile™ Online Health Assessment – Mental Health Score
Online Wellness Center ™How Stressed Are You Online Quiz
For more information about Stress Management, please contact wellness@asu.edu.