While I sit in the waiting room of an overcrowded doctor’s office, I try to take my mind off the nervousness I’m feeling. I run through a list of things in my head that I haven’t even begun to complete for the week: the pile of homework sitting in my backpack, the emails for work that need to be sent, countless errands, and the move back into my recently remodeled bedroom. But it is exactly all these thoughts that contribute to the anxiety and stress that my doctor tells me is the reason for my ongoing nausea.
Every college student experiences some stress during his or her time at school. It’s your body’s way of responding to an unbalanced nervous system. When you leave an important assignment till the last minute because you worked at your part-time job all week, or even when you have a disagreement with a friend or significant other, your body goes into emergency mode. As we come to end of a semester with final exams looming, multiple stressors can mount.
“Common problems and issues that cause stress can be family dynamics (problems at home), problems with relationships, trying to balance their academics and outside work responsibilities, not having enough time to get everything completed,” Lynne A. Schwartz, Associate Director for Counseling Services, said. She added that family illness and financial issues, not having enough money for school, paying the bills and health insurance, along with “not having a safe place to live, not having a place to get their work done, issues with alcohol or other drugs, either with the student or a family member,” can cause severe stress, she added.
Sometimes, that stress can help motivate you to complete whatever tasks are at hand, or even better yourself as a person. More often than not, however, it will come to a point where your body and mind suffer real physical effects.
Fatigue, moodiness, irritability, and unhappiness are only some minor feelings that can be associated with stress. There are far more severe conditions and illnesses that are caused by stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.8 percent of men and 12.3 percent of women ages 18-24 report frequent mental distress–a key indicator for depression and other mental disorders.
Physical symptoms can also appear when stress is at its peak. Body aches and pains and periodic colds can keep you out of commission if they persist, but from personal experience, nausea and digestive problems can be particularly debilitating.
Alicia O’Leary, a senior at LIU Post, dealt with the same frustration her junior year. “I was taking 18 credits, working part time, in a speech club, volunteering, on kick line, and I had to complete 25 hours of observation,” she said, remembering the difficult semester.
“Whenever I would eat I would get either nauseous or exhausted and had to lie down for a while,” she added. “I went to my doctor but they didn’t know what it was.” Dealing with the same problem, I can say that being unaware of the root of the illness causes an excessive amount of stress, only making you feel worse.
This year, Alicia’s schedule has winded down, and her condition has taken a backseat in her life. She gives the credit of her recovery to the fact that she “relaxed during summer.”
But full-time students don’t always have the time to relax when it comes to stress. Schwartz and fellow counselor Sarah Boles offered some tips on how to lower your anxiety and keep your body fit.
“Finding healthy outlets such as exercise, spending time with friends, counseling, hobbies or interests,” are some ways Boles says can help students cope with stress to prevent illness. “Also, eating well and having good sleep habits are helpful when dealing with stress.”
Time management is a skill all students should master to keep up with healthy sleeping habits and rest. Schedule enough time to work on that term paper or presentation as soon as it is assigned so you don’t have to pull an “all-nighter.”
Along with the Student Health and Counseling Services provided on campus, the Pratt Recreation Center offers nutrition counseling as well as many stress-relieving classes like yoga that you can take to help relax your body.
When all else fails, talk to someone! If those pesky symptoms persist or you just can’t get your head straight, see a doctor or counselor to put your mind at ease. “Sometimes it pays to see the doctor on campus or their private physician,” Schwartz said. “They can guide a student to help identify what is going and then refer them to the next step.”
“We have many services right here on campus to help students stay healthy,” Boles said, referring to the Student Health and Counseling Center. They are there whenever a student is feeling frazzled or upset, or even when a student just needs someone to listen. Don’t let stress take over. When life gives you too many obstacles, just take a deep breath, and remember that help is nearby. The Student Health and Counseling Center is located in the Life Sciences building, room 154. For more information, call 516-299-2345.