Stress, anxiety and college life

Stress, anxiety and college life

by Rena Ketelsen–Imagine a dark, quiet room. Loud train horns disrupt the silence every once in a while, despite their great distance from that room. It’s late and most people are asleep, but not all of them. Some are lying in bed, wide awake, trying their best to sleep but to no avail. Racing thoughts make that hard; thoughts about everything that will or might happen and everything that has yet to be done among other things.

Chances are that a good part of those people are students.

Looming thoughts of upcoming deadlines or problems that yet need to be dealt with torment many adults’ minds. Busy schedules and long days lead to stress.

Students deal with those things too. Perhaps, they do so more than other groups of people. At the very least, stress and anxiety are known issues that many students deal with on a daily basis.

Such is the case for Emily Rotthaler, a senior who has experienced those feelings all too often throughout her time at university. In her experience, most of her stress is related to college.

On any given day, Rotthaler gets up early to work. Then, she has to run to her first class of the day which is followed by lunch and another class. After that, soccer takes up most of the rest of the day. Dinner follows. By the time she has a moment to breathe, the whole day passed. Still, the day is not over for her yet. Back in her apartment, homework and assignments that need to be completed wait for her. All of that keeps her very busy and puts her under a lot of stress.

Her anxiety, on the other hand, is rooted in a different part of her life. Still, it is connected to the university and the confinement of life on a college campus.

“My anxiety”, she explains, “has mostly to do with campus being a highly social environment. Wherever I go I come across people I know and who I am on a greeting basis with. In classes, at work, and at soccer, I have to talk to others which drains my social battery and increases my anxiety.”

Especially as an international student, ways to get away from campus are limited. Therefore, there is no good way to escape all of those social interactions. More or less all of her life happens right here on campus. The result is consistently building social anxiety with no outlet.

Outside of social anxiety, managing the workload and keeping track of deadlines is definitely a common issue that students deal with as well. They worry about completing everything on time and keeping their grades up. Those thoughts can easily keep one up at night.

Megan Messersmith, a senior, and Cristal Delatorre who already graduated from Morningside University and is currently in undergrad, both struggle with those concerns as well. Their main college-related causes of anxiety overlap largely.

Messersmith’s reasons for her anxiety are “the pressure of getting work done and performing well as well as a heavy workload.”

Delatorre adds to that list the “fear of getting a bad grade”. Because she works with students and more specifically student-athletes on a daily basis, she also points out that she knows plenty of people who deal with both stress and anxiety.

Rotthaler, like many other students, deals with this as well.

“I tend to procrastinate assignments that can’t be completed in under an hour or that require input from other people”, she says about herself. “I procrastinate them but at the same time, I constantly worry about all the work I still have to do which also increases my anxiety.”

Other students can surely relate. 

Messersmith , Delatorre, and Rotthaler know about other students who have those issues as well. All three of them think that the perception of stress and anxiety in modern society has changed. While people and students in particular have always needed to deal with those issues, it wasn’t talked about much. In the past, mental health was a topic that has largely been dismissed by people or has straight up been ignored. Nowadays, people are much more outspoken about it.

Delatorre adds that she believes stress and anxiety are in fact things that the average student has to deal with more so than older generations.

Messersmith seems to agree. “I think that our generation is more aware of mental health and stress so that plays into it”, she acknowledges. “But I also know we have to do with a crazy world where there are shootings and pandemics and we’re just trying to turn a paper in on time. So, it can be a lot.”

Finding a way to deal with that stress and anxiety can be difficult and not everyone has found a way. Rotthaler, for instance, has no way to deal with it yet that works for her. Messersmith, however, encourages students to talk to someone if needed. She makes sure to point out that taking mental health days or breaks from stressful assignments in order to get one’s head right again is ok.

“School is important but so is mental health”, she states.

Delatorre deals with it slightly differently. She likes to take time for herself which she calls “me-time”. Meditation helps her too. She focuses on her breathing and on the things she can control.

Regardless of that, the fact remains that many students deal with both stress and anxiety on a daily basis. It has more or less become a part of college life and college culture.

November 22, 2022

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