I recently worked a table at the Alcala Bazaar for the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion (CHWP). Incentivized with the softest t-shirt to have ever been created, students spun the wheel to test their knowledge on categories ranging from alcohol and other drugs to mental health.
Students did surprisingly well with many of the questions, even ones that called for specific statistics and numbers. However there was one question that was answered incorrectly several times. For context, our students/participants ranged from ages 18 to upwards of 50, differing in backgrounds, knowledge sets and majors, but nonetheless this question stumped many. What was the question, you may ask? Falling under the category mental health for 100 points, the question read: “What is the #1 mental health concern students report negatively impacting their academic success?”
Common answers included: anxiety, depression and lack of sleep.
While all of these can and do definitely have a negative impact on many students’ academic success, there is another factor that many have reported is far more common: Stress.
Eight in ten college students report having experienced extreme stress in their lives in the past three months according to a 2008 mental health study by the Associated Press.Many students were very surprised and many of them stated that, “they did not know that stress was a mental health concern” or that it could negatively impact academic performance. That being said, not all stress is bad stress, but too much stress can become detrimental.
Types of Stress: The Good, the Bad and the UGLY:
Short-term stress is very common. You may recall learning about the fight or flight response in high school. This refers to the physiological symptoms you experience when you feel stress and includes but is not limited to an increased heart rate, muscle tension and perspiration. In small amounts this type of stress can be good for you. This stress helps you focus on upcoming tasks like a test, presentation or important job interview. If we are able to find a way to relax after we deal with our stressors then our body returns to normal.
Elongated or chronic stress is the kind of stress that we want to avoid when possible. Many people do not see stress as a mental health concern, which can be why many choose to ignore chronic stress in their life. According to the American Psychological Association, “an extreme amount of stress can have health consequences and adversely affect the immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems.” While everyday stressors can be usually managed by stress management practices (such as exercise, meditation, appropriate sleep, etc.) chronic stress can harm you physically and psychologically.
See the chart below for different symptoms of chronic stress:
While some of these symptoms may seem small they may lead to even greater health problems. APA research has shown that chronic stress can contribute to the development of anxiety, depression, heart disease and even obesity.It is time we take stress more seriously and treat it like any other mental illness! If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or are worried that you or a friend are experiencing chronic stress tell someone!
On Tuesday, October 24th, Student Wellness is putting on their bi-annual Mental Health Check-ins from 4 to 6 pm in the UC’s. Stop by for a free 15-minute confidential check in with a wellness professional. This is a great opportunity to show yourself some love and to focus on your own mental health especially during midterm season.
In addition, The Counseling Center is a confidential resource open Monday – Friday from 8:30am-5pm, with extended hours until 6pm on Wednesday during fall and spring semesters. The easiest way to secure an initial consultation is by making a same- or next-day appointment via the Wellness Portal. Students can also call or come by the Counseling Center to arrange for an appointment.
I need to talk with someone now and the Counseling Center is closed!
If you have an urgent matter or are having thoughts of suicide, a counselor on call is available to consult about after hours psychological emergencies at all times. The counselor on call can be reached by calling Public Safety at (619) 260-2222. Other 24/7 resources include the San Diego Access and Crisis Line (888) 724-7240 and the National Suicide Prevention Line (800) 273-8255, both of which offer crisis intervention, information and referrals.