As finals approach, stress levels rise

By Kelsey Ketterling
ketterlingke@mnstate.edu

Finals, projects, work, time management and having a social life are all part of college. Along with  these aspects comes another norm of college life: stress. It is not uncommon to hear students on campus talking about their everyday stresses and strains.
WebMD defines stress as the body’s reaction to harmful situations — real or not. Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress, but long-term chronic stress can cause severe consequences. Some of these consequences are anxiety, eating disorders and high blood pressure.
Dr. Rochelle Bergstrom, a psychology professor, shared` the dangers of long-term stress.
“Long-term stress is quite harmful to both psychological and physical health,” she said. “Chronic stress has been linked to depression, infectious diseases, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and even cancer.”
With half the semester already gone, many students have started to feel the stress pile on and have begun their various stress management and de-stressing routines.
When her job, money worries and being homesick become too much to handle, junior Miranda Dow handles her stress by writing, reading, playing guitar, drawing and listening to music. Dow can usually tell when the stress is too high when she feels irritable.
“I get exhausted to the point that I don’t want to get anything done,” Dow said.
Hunter Jones, also a junior, said she tends to procrastinate when she gets overwhelmed with stress.
“I excessively sleep when I’m stressed,” Jones said.
Similar to Dow, Jones likes to listen to music to relieve her stress, however Jones’ musical preference differs.
“I usually listen to angry music and go for walks,” Jones said. “I have an angry playlist.”
“[When I get stressed out] I get so crabby it’s awful,” freshman Bram Carr said. “My filter disappears.”
Carr said he best relieves his stress by reading and hanging out with friends.
“I read the documentary version of books, like political journals and the news,” Carr said. Carr tends to be most stressed when he has a lot of assignments.
“So all the time,” he laughed.
According to WebMD, those coping with stress can relieve it through the use of meditation, sharing feelings with friends, and excerise. Dr. Bergstrom agrees living a healthy lifestyle can help with stress as well.
“Being on a college campus, we do see an increase in illnesses as the demands of the semester increase,” Bergstrom said.  “It’s reasonable to assume that some of these problems are stress-related in some way.”
Bergstrom believes it is important to eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly to help minimize the  effect of stress. Staying away from alcohol and smoking is also beneficial.  Students coping with stress should also focus on time management.
Stress affects everyone in different ways, meaning symptoms of stress can be emotional, physical, cognitive and behavioral.
“Common symptoms of stress include muscle tension, headaches, difficulty sleeping, a change in eating patterns, worry and/or increased anxiety, a disruption in daily activities and routines, and in the case of chronic stress, an increased risk for illness,” Bergstrom said. “People become overly stressed when their current demands outweigh their current ability to meet those demands.”
No matter how stressful things may seem, Dr. Bergstom believes it is important to remain optimistic.
“The way we interpret events in our lives will also help us cope more effectively with stressors we experience,” she said.  “Approaching difficult or stressful situations with a sense of personal control and optimism is very important.”

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