Stress isn’t limited to adults

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Keith Upchurch, Herald-Sun, North Carolina: Stress isn’t limited to adults. It affects students, too.

Whether it’s a crushing load of schoolwork, fear of the next test or worries about money and the future, high school and college students face their own pressures in an increasingly competitive world.

Some find the pressure stimulating and motivating, while others lose sleep.

One person who isn’t burned out by carrying a full course load and also devoting more than 40 hours a week to extracurricular activities is Duke University senior Chris Martin, 22. He’s chairman of the Duke Honor Council, president of Club Sports, president of the cycling team and president of the Duke University Campus Recreation Leadership Council.

He recently calculated that those commitments take about 43 hours a week. He’s also got classes, tests and term papers, and is applying to business school.

But instead of letting stress overcome him, he finds it a pleasure, because he’s passionate about what he does.

“It is hard at times to be committed to as many things as a lot of us at Duke are,” Martin said. “But at the end of the day, the people at Duke make it a real pleasure to lead them. The people in the organizations I’m involved with have been incredibly challenging and passionate individuals who have brought my leadership to a higher level. They challenge me to become a better person.”

For Martin, it’s all about doing what he loves.

“It’s a pressure, for sure, but for me, stress is more about how you deal with your commitments and not necessarily the commitments themselves.”

To keep stress at bay, Martin tries to stay fit, and cycling is his sports of choice.

“When I ride my bike, that’s when I think clearest,” he said.

But not everyone reacts to pressure the same way.

For example, Elizabeth KonKolics, a 21-year-old Duke senior and Baldwin Scholar majoring in evolutionary anthropology, says schoolwork creates the most stress in her life. One way she deals with it is to get more sleep.

“I’m the kind of person that when I have a lot of stress, I tend to sleep more, and that can be a problem,” she said. “I would say that sometimes there are a few meltdowns, as my mother always calls them. And also, when you’re thinking about things outside of school or a particular class, it makes you less focused on all your other studies or the rest of your life.”

KonKolics is involved in several student organizations, and much of her stress comes from the tug of war between those commitments and schoolwork.

But she knows what her future holds after graduation: She’ll be teaching high school biology in Memphis, Tenn.

“It’s funny to think that Duke’s stress has prepared me for other stress,” she said. “I don’t know that we are always taught how to deal with stress, but I am someone who talks it out. I have a lot of friends I have breakfast with, and talk things out with them.”

Other ways she releases pressure is by watching movies, especially romantic comedies. At other times, she likes to close the door and sit quietly in her room.

“My mother has a funny saying [about stress]: ‘Take a shower, shave your legs and go to bed.’ ” She tries to take that advice.

For Philip Polychroniou, a Duke senior who plans to go on to medical school, stress is “a double-edged sword, because it can serve as a motivator to get things done, but can also be crippling, especially when faced with an approaching deadline.”

He said some students faced with deadlines often turn to energy drinks, coffee and other stimulants like Adderall to get their work done.

But Polychroniou prefers to run, play basketball or watch a movie to handle stress.

“I think to a certain extent, today’s college students are under more stress than in the past, because there is more competition, not only while in school, but also in the job market,” he said. “The recession hasn’t helped either, because our immediate future is in a bit more doubt than it would be if there was more economic growth and job openings.”

At N.C. Central University, stress is a constant companion for many students.

Describing her life as “very stressful” is Jessica Mohabir, 21, a senior majoring in psychology. She’s feeling the pressure as she nears graduation and tries to get into graduate school. Also, her mother recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan, where she served in the Marines, and it stressed Mohabir to know she had been in harm’s way.

How does she cope with stress? By venting to friends and keeping a journal, which she finds “very therapeutic.”

She tries to get enough sleep, and takes time-outs to listen to music when the walls start closing in.

But money worries sometimes chip away at her peace of mind.

“Money is definitely an issue — trying to make sure I have money to pay rent, buy groceries, textbooks and so forth,” she said. “That adds to the stress I’m in right now.”

The way NCCU sophomore Tyquan Ward, 19, handles stress is “hitting the gym” and “making a to-do list and complete as many tasks as possible.”

The pre-law student feels the stress of trying to excel at whatever he does.

“If you don’t want to be successful in your schoolwork, you’re not going to have high stress levels,” Ward said. “But if you want to make all As, then of course you’re going to be stressed, because to get at least 90 percent in all your classes takes hard work. There are some times when you have two or three tests in one day. You’ve got to prepare for all of them, because at the end of the day, the professors aren’t going to take any excuses.”

Drinking lots of Pepsi has helped get him through long nights in the past, but this semester, he’s trying to drink more water and better manage his time.

And he believes the pressure on college students is more intense now than 10 years ago because of increased competition for jobs.

“Maybe 10 years ago, you could get a great job with a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “But nowadays, a bachelor’s degree is equivalent to a high school diploma.”

Original article no longer available


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