Anxiety & Stress

According to campus statistics (NACHA/ACHA survey, Spring 2014), 25.1% of Fairmont State students report that stress has negatively affected their academic performance, and 18.2% report the same for anxiety.  78% of students had felt overwhelmed by all they had to do within the previous year with 53% reporting feeling overwhelming anxiety.

College life can be very stressful. Sometimes parents, faculty and others tend to idealize their college experience and remember it as that idyllic time when they had few worries or responsibilities. To students currently attending college, however, the process is often stressful and frustrating. The competition for grades, the need to perform, relationships, career choice, and many other aspects of the college environment can cause stress.

Before condemning stress outright, we need to understand that stress is only harmful when it is excessive. Much of the stress that we all experience is helpful and stimulating. The challenges of life tend to be stressful and an attempt to avoid stress completely would lead to a rather boring existence. The problem comes when you experience too much stress.

Although some stress reactions are part of deeper and more serious emotional problems, many are not, and can be handled with relatively simple counseling and stress-management techniques. You can use the following guidelines to help manage your stress:

  • Understand your role in stress reactions
  • Develop a balanced life-style and effective personal organization
  • Learn specific relaxation techniques
  • Gain perspective on problems by discussing them, and
  • Clarify your values and develop a sense of spirituality

Watch what happens to your brain on stress

Source and Symptoms of Stress

There are four primary sources of stress:

  1. The Environment - examples include noise, pollution, traffic and crowding, and the weather.
  2. Physiological - examples include illness, injuries, hormonal fluctuations, and inadequate sleep or nutrition.
  3. Your Thoughts - the way you think affects how you respond. Negative self-talk, catastrophizing, and perfectionism all contribute to increased stress.
  4. Social Stressors - examples include financial problems, work demands, social events, and losing a loved one.

Symptoms of stress appear in many forms. Some symptoms only impact the person who is directly experiencing stress, while other symptoms may have an impact on our relationships with others. Perhaps you experience some of the examples below when your stress levels are elevated.

Physical Symptoms

  • muscular tension
  • colds or other illnesses
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion
  • ulcers
  • difficulty sleeping
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • backaches

Emotional Symptoms

  • depression
  • anger
  • fear or anxiety
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • mood swings

Cognitive Symptoms

  • forgetfulness
  • unwanted or repetitive thoughts
  • difficulty concentrating

Anxiety

Anxiety can be helpful and adaptive, such as when studying for a test, as it can help focus attention and block-out distractions. Helpful anxiety tends to be short-term, focused on a particular area of worry, and of mild to moderate intensity. Anxiety becomes problematic when it is long-term or constant (i.e., worried even when you should be relaxing or there is nothing to worry about), when it does not seem associated with a particular event or situation (i.e., worried all of the time about everything), or when it is of significant intensity (e.g., panic attacks). There are several types of anxiety disorders, and we assist our clients at the Counseling Center in finding the appropriate solutions based on the type of anxiety they are experiencing.

Symptoms

  • Worry/Nervousness
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach/Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • Trembling
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating

Managing Stress & Anxiety

  • Learn relaxation techniques. Listen to a relaxation tape, practice deep breathing exercises, or attend a yoga class.
  • Attend guided meditation sessions offered daily at the Counseling Center MWF 8:15; TR 3:15
  • Get regular exercise. Physical activity not only relaxes your body, but also calms your mind and boosts your mood.
  • Reach out to friends. Just talking about your problems with someone who listens without judging can be very helpful for relieving stress.
  • Don't over schedule your day. Leave some time open for reading a book, listening to music, or simply sitting quietly.
  • Treat your body right. Eat a balanced diet, get adequate sleep, and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. You will have more energy and also be less vulnerable to the physical side-effects of stress.
  • Learn to say "No." Stop trying to please others all the time, taking on responsibilities that are not yours, or engaging in emotional demands that leave you feeling drained.
  • Use positive self-talk. Instead of producing worry by coming up with a variety of reasons you can't cope, use positive self-reinforcement, such as "I can handle this one step at a time."
  • Take charge. Be assertive and take responsibility for making your life what you want it to be. It is less stressful to make decisions and take action than to feel powerless and react to decisions made by others.
  • Know your limits. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. It is better to accomplish less and do it well, than to do more poorly.

Anxiety can be both emotionally and physically exhausting. Contact us to schedule an appointment if you would like assistance.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency or crisis, please contact our office at (304) 333-3661, campus security at (304) 367-4357, or dial 911 for immediate help.