Stress level continuing to rise

Story by Jessica Amaris, Staff Writer

Pick two: getting enough sleep, a social life or good grades. Seems impossible, right? It is a daily struggle more and more college students are facing.

While this stress is nothing new, Jennifer Muehlenkamp, psychology professor at the university, said among college students stress, depression and anxiety is on the rise.

“As a society we’re increasingly focused on achievements and competition. Students are facing multiple demands: working, school, money, (they) are pressured to over perform and achieve,”
Muehlenkamp said.

These pressures are not just affecting students’ mental health, Muehlenkamp said. The body actually feels the physical effects that stress and anxiety cause.

“Stress can do a number of things to the body,” Muehlenkamp said. “Chronic stress weakens the immune system. High blood pressure is really big. Stress can lead to migraines, or insomnia, so they don’t feel well rested.”

Muehlenkamp said a lot of stress can lead to anxiety for some, or cause depression, and those are the key warning signs of when stress has become overbearing for the individual.

“When stress becomes extreme people start to withdraw from friends or activities that they used to do,” Muehlenkamp said. “They also engage in high-risk activities. They feel trapped, like there’s no way out, or
no solutions.”

Sophomore Taylor Custer said she has spotted these warning signs in her friends.

“I have friends in college that have anxiety disorders already,” Custer said. “School stresses them out and if they’re not on top of their school work or if they get a big project, they can have
panic attacks.”

Custer said it can be hard to balance school, sports and a social life, which adds to her stress load.

“I have 17 credits and I’m TA-ing on top of that, and we’re in season for gymnastics,” Custer said. “There are times I just shut down, or I get really bad migraines and stress is a really big trigger.”

Junior Keeley Benson said being a nursing major as well as a diver on the swimming and diving team can sometimes be overwhelming with just the workload alone.

“The aspects of my life that cause the most stress is balancing between school, diving, work, and a social life,” Benson said. “School many times feels never-ending and I feel like I could spend all my time on school.”

Lynn Wilson, director of Counseling Services, said they see about 1,000 students a year, making up about 10  percent of the student population. The top five reasons for being seen are related to­­ depression, anxiety, family, relationships and chemical abuse.

“Someone experiences stress in their life and they have a difficult time managing that stress, and don’t know how to handle it or cope with it … because they don’t have the tools or skills they need to manage that stress,”
Wilson said.

With only 10 percent of the student population seeking out these services, Wilson said a lot of students don’t seek help because of the stigmas around counseling.

“Students are afraid of what other students will think of them,” Wilson said. “Sometimes we live in culture where we think we’re supposed to be independent and not ask for help from others and if they ask for help something’s wrong with them.”

However, students can feel safe walking through the private Counseling Services door, she said. All information disclosed is completely confidential and the goal of these services is to help students learn how to manage and cope with their stress.

“When there’s a stress in your life, it’s important to do something about it,” Wilson said. “If you don’t manage that stress in some fashion, it’s probably going to continue to build.”