Counseling Services - Stress

Stress Management


Stress is a part of day-to-day life for almost everyone. As a college student, you may experience stress meeting academic demands, adjusting to a new living environment, or developing new relationships. The stress you experience is not necessarily harmful. When mild forms of stress are too high, however, medical and social problems can result.

What is Stress?

Although we tend to think of stress as caused by external events, events in themselves are not stressful. Rather, it is the way in which we interpret and react to events that makes them stressful. People differ dramatically in the type of events they interpret as stressful and the way in which they respond to such stress. For example, speaking in public can be stressful for some people, but relaxing for others. Stress is a part of life, which, unfortunately, has potentially ill effects on both physical and mental health. You can avoid these effects by becoming aware of the things that cause you stress, and making a real effort to eliminate as much stress from your life as possible. Stop and think about your situation. Identify what is causing you the most stress.

Symptoms of Stress

There are several signs and symptoms that you may notice when you are experiencing stress. These signs and symptoms fall into four categories: Thoughts, Feelings, Behavior, and Physiology. When you are under stress, you may experience one or more of the following:


  • Low self-esteem
  • Fear of failure
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Easily embarrassed
  • Worry about the future
  • Forgetfulness
  • Preoccupation with thoughts/tasks 
  • Anxiousness.
  • Feeling scared.
  • Confusion.
  • Depression.
  • Mood changes.
  • Nail biting.
  • Irritability.
  • Moodiness.
  • Nervousness.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Nervousness
  • Confusion
  • Excitement
  • Hopelessness
  • Cynicism
  • Resentment
  • Hostility
  • Racing or obsessive thoughts 
  • Stuttering and other speech difficulties
  • Crying for no apparent reason
  • Acting impulsively
  • Being easily startled
  • Laughing in a nervous tone of voice
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Increasing smoking
  • Increasing use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Being accident prone
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Withdrawing from close relationships
  • Snapping at others
  • Completing tasks with difficulty
  • Trying to do several things at once
  • Perspiration/sweaty hands.
  • Increase of heart beat.
  • Trembling.
  • Nervous ticks.
  • Dryness of throat and mouth.
  • Tiring easily.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Sleeping problems.
  • Diarrhea / indigestion / vomiting.
  • Butterflies in stomach.
  • Headaches.
  • Premenstrual tension.
  • Pain in the neck and or lower back.
  • Overeating or loss of appetite.
  • Susceptibility to illness.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Heartburn
  • Teeth grinding
  • Skin rash
  • Chest pain
  • Cold hands and/or feet 


Causes of Stress

Both positive and negative events in one’s life can be stressful. However, major life changes are the greatest contributors of stress for most people. They place the greatest demand on resources for coping.

Major Life Changes That Can Be Stressful 

  • Geographic mobility
  • Going to college
  • Transfer to a new school
  • Marriage
  • Pregnancy
  • New job
  • New lifestyle
  • Divorce
  • Death of a loved one
  • Being fired from job
  • Greater academic demands
  • Being on your own in a new environment
  • Changes in family relations
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Changes in your social life
  • Exposure to new people, ideas, and temptations
  • Awareness of your sexual identity and orientation
  • Preparing for life after graduation


Environmental Events that can be Stressful 

  • Time pressures
  • Competition
  • Financial problems
  • Noise
  • Disappointments


How to Reduce Stress 

Many stresses can be changed, eliminated, or minimized. Here are some things you can do to reduce your level of stress:

  • Learn to use your time wisely.
  • Create a written plan.
  • Reinforce positive self-statements.
  • Focus on your good qualities.
  • Avoid unnecessary competition.
  • Develop assertive behaviors.
  • Recognize and accept your limits.
  • Remember that everyone is unique and different.
  • Get a hobby or two.
  • Relax and have fun.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a balanced diet daily.
  • Talk with friends or someone you can trust about your worries/problems.
  • Become aware of your own reactions to stress.
  • Evaluate how you are budgeting your time.
  • Plan ahead and avoid procrastination.
  • Make a weekly schedule and try to follow it.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Set priorities.

When studying for an exam, study in short blocks and gradually lengthen the time you spend studying. Take frequent short breaks. Practice relaxation techniques. For example, whenever you feel tense, slowly breathe in and out for several minutes.