Many people experience stress as they combine busy lives and the demands of study and or work while trying to also save time for friends and family.. For some people,, stress becomes almost a way of life.. We all experience episodic stress – getting ready for a major exam,, completing an important paper,, perhaps getting ready for an important interview.. However,, a continuous ““state”” of stress should not become a way of life.. We know that stress – over a prolonged period of time – can have increase certain health risks,, to say nothing of the wear and tear that happens to relationships and general wellbeing.This simple guide uses materials adapted from several college campuses with active stress reduction programs.. It explores the origins of stress and provides some basic ways to assess the level of stress you may be feeling and then suggests some easy–to–incorporate ways to decrease the level of stress.. WHAT IS STRESS? Stress is simply the body’s non-specific response to any demand made on it.Stress is not by definition synonymous with nervous tension or anxiety.Thing to remember about stress is that certain forms are normal and essential.As the body responds to various forms of physical or psychological stress, certain predictable changes occur. These include increased heart rate, blood pressure (systolic and diastolic), and secretions of stimulatory hormones. These responses to stress will occur whether the stress is positive or negative in nature. In lay terms, it is known as the “fight or flight” mechanism. Continual exposure lowers the body’s ability to cope with additional forms of psychological or physiological stress.The results of continuing stress may cause disruption in one or more of the following areas of health: physical, emotional, spiritual and/or social. Stress is a process that builds. It is more effective to intervene early in the process rather than later. Try to become aware of the signs that suggest the process has begun. COMMON STRESSORS IN COLLEGE LIFE INCLUDE: ? Greater academic demands ? Being on one’s own in a new environment – with new responsibilities ? Changes in family relations and one’s social life ? Financial responsibilities ? Exposure to new people, ideas, and temptations? Being away from home, often for the first time ? Making decisions, on a higher level than one is used to ? Substance abuse ? Awareness of one’s sexual identity and orientation ? Preparing for life after graduation ? Psychological make-up can also play a role in vulnerability to depression. People who have low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism, or are readily overwhelmed by stress may be especially prone to depression. TAKING STRESS SERIOUSLY For many young adults, college is the best time of life.These critical years of adjustment can also be undermined by depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders. Researchers are finding that many mental illnesses are traced to trauma, whose damage surfaces in times of stress and change, such as the college years. The statistics listed below are evidence that stress – in ourselves or in someone about whom we care – should be taken and treated seriously. College students are feeling more overwhelmed and stressed than fifteen years ago, according to a recent UCLA survey of college freshman.More than 30% of all college freshman report feeling overwhelmed – a great deal of the time. Thirty-eight percent of college women report feeling frequently overwhelmed. Depression affects over 19 million adults in the US annually. At colleges nationwide, large percentages of college students are feeling overwhelmed, sad, hopeless and so depressed that they are unable to function. In a recent national college health survey, 10% of college students had been diagnosed with depression.Women, who tend to be more forthcoming (or are less stigmatized) in seeking treatment for depression, recorded a rate of 13%. Anxiety disorders affect millions of adults every year, and anxiety levels among college students have been rising since the 1950s. In 2000, 7% of college students reported experiencing anxiety disorders within the previous year. Women are five times as likely to have anxiety disorders. Eating disorders affect 5-10 million women and 1 million men, with the highest rates occurring in college-aged women. Advantaged, white women are at the highest risk.Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among the US population, the third leading cause of death for all those aged 15-24, and the second leading cause of death in college populations. Individuals who are stressed are more likely to have accidents – including those involving motor vehicles, and, to be more careless with seatbelt use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7. 8% of men and 12. 3% of women ages 18-24 report frequent mental distress – a key indicator for depression and other mental disorders.Some additional suggestions for reducing stress levels and enhancing your college experience: ? Keep your space and consequently your mind organized. ? Go to class. ? Keep up with course work (the rule of thumb is two hours of study per one hour in class). ? Get involved with campus activities. ? Maintain communication with your family. ? Take advantage of campus resources and choose a career path. ? Form healthy relationships. ? Talk to someone about your problems (family member, friend, college counselor). ? Get to know your professors.