Homework, projects, exams, papers, and more exams. These are the pressures of college. How do Huntington University students cope with the stress?
By Kelsey Priestley, Contributor
As a senior animator, Lissa Hickey is feeling a lot of stress. On top of finishing her senior project, she also recently learned that four out of the 20 credits she was taking she didn’t actually need while several other credits she did need she hadn’t enrolled in. For Hickey, stress manifests itself with overthinking.
“I tend to overthink a lot,” she said. “My problems just inflate like crazy, and I’m thinking like I have to impress all these people and hold up to their standards. And if I don’t do well, then they are going to be disappointed.
Hickey’s not alone when it comes to stress on campus. HU students interviewed for this story cited responsibilities and obligations such as classes, papers, readings, and projects, that raise their stress levels. Sometimes personal tensions develop with family, friends, romantic relationships, finances, and health. Others talked about jobs on or off campus that make juggling
schedules a headache. These students also talked about how they cope with the stress, the top three in a convenience survey of 100 students being social media, sleep, and ignoring it.
Stress doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, said Laura Jacobs, a licensed mental health counselor associate at Lifeworks Counseling and Consulting, Inc., in Fort Wayne, in an email interview. She said there are two kind of stress college students can experience. Healthy stress moves you to do things like homework. Unhealthy stress stops you from doing lots of things, which can even include things you actually love to do.
Hickey chooses to cope with her stress by taking walks through the woods. This activity helps her put things back in perspective. She also says that every spring the senior animators will go hiking together. Doing the small things with people is something she really enjoys.
“And like, of course, a little stress is good because it’s motivating,” said Hickey. “But when we let it get out of hand, I think we start to place the wrong things first, and we let our relationships suffer and our own mental wellness and even our relationship with God.”
Resident Assistant Tasha Peoples deals with an added element of stress in her leadership role on Baker First.
“You have that extra responsibility of if something goes wrong—if someone comes to you, they expect you to do something,” she says. “And it’s not always convenient. Sometimes, I might have to, like, stop doing homework, or if I’m going through something personal myself, I’ve learned how to kind of put that on the back burner and focus on whatever situation is in front of me.”
As an RA, there is much planning that goes into floor events and taking care of the students who live in the dorms. Peoples said the beginning of the school year seems to be the most stressful as there is training to do while also getting into the new routine.
Freshman biology major Luke Schwab often times finds himself going to Uncle Bill’s in Fort Wayne when he feels stressed. In this pet store, customers have the chance to look at different kinds of puppies and choose a couple to play with. This gives the puppies a chance to interact with people while also giving the customers a fun time.
A worker at Uncle Bill’s and a student at Purdue Fort Wayne, Rachel Hoger, details how she sees HU students visiting the store.
“I am a full-time college student, and I enjoy coming to work to see the puppies and other animals,” Hoger said in an email interview. “The employees at Uncle Bills treat and love dogs like they are our own. We know each and every one’s personality.”
Even on days Hoger doesn’t work, she finds time to go visit the puppies.
“It sure does help me relieve stress,” she said.
On average she sees two or three groups a week with Huntington t-shirts or key chains. Many of these students seem to leave happier and with smiling faces.
Nineteen percent of HU students in a convenience survey of 100 students said that they choose to cope with stress by turning to social media. Other answers included listening to music, eating, shopping, exercising, watching Netflix, drinking, talking to a friend, playing video games, and spending time with their ESA (Emotional Support Animal). Sometimes students do not always know how to cope with their stress, or they just choose to ignore it completely.
“Counseling, counseling, counseling,” says Jacobs. “It is so helpful. To have someone who will listen to you but doesn’t know you or owe you anything or might talk about private things. I can’t oversell counseling. Also, making sure to figure out some ways that you feel relaxed and do those things. College can be particularly stressful if you’re an introvert and don’t know it.”
Handling and coping with stress isn’t always an easy process for some students.
“The thing I probably don’t handle so well is that if I’m taking myself back, I’ll let myself slip into this ‘I’m stressed out, so I don’t wanna do anything’ mode,” Peoples said. “And that’s not productive, and that’s not gonna do anything healthy, and I know that. I’m working on it.”
People often confuse stress with depression and anxiety. There is, however, a relation they all have to one another.
“A lot of times they are used interchangeably,” explained Jacobs. “Stress can cause anxiety or depression or both. Anxiety and depression also bring added stress to life at times. In either situation, a counselor can be very helpful in giving you simple tips to reduce stress.”
Thirty percent of U.S. college students reported their academic performance had declined due to stress, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Forty million adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder and 75 percent of them acquired this disorder before the age of 22.
International student Amarachi Charles-Okezie, a freshman from Nigeria, is double majoring in health science and occupational therapy while also taking pre-med courses when she can. One of the main causes of her stress is the due dates for homework assignments.
“In Nigeria stuff are due, and when they are due you can always turn them in late,” she explained. “So, I can handle the stress, but the stress is slightly more because the homework, like, we do more homework here. And the homework are due when they are due. There’s no late time.”
She said she copes with stress by sleeping, talking to friends back home, and trying to organize herself better. Fall semester was a new experience for Charles-Okezie. Learning to organize better this spring semester has been important to her.
Tasha Peoples remembers something one of her professors said: “Stress is the things you care about being tested.”