Students fight stress while trying to stay ahead

By Callie Jennings – cjenning@unca.edu – Staff Writer | Sept. 24, 2014 |

According to UNC Asheville students and counselors, stress levels remain at a peak.

“I just have to remind myself why I’m in school. I have to have those moments where I’m just not doing anything and think about why it’s important, what it has to do with my life and how it’s improving my life,” said Taylor Brown, a 20-year old junior at UNCA.

The average student at UNCA, according to school officials, takes around 16 credit hours a semester. Nearly double the requirement for full-time students, some students take more than 20 hours.

“If you take into account my 16-hour school schedule and extracurricular work, I think I have about a 23-hour work week. That’s probably low compared to some other people. Thankfully I’m not working currently, but I am still employed,” Brown said.

According to Brown, who is part of Cru Ministries, having a full schedule as well as an active social life makes it harder to find time to study.

“I usually find study time inbetween classes or when I get home, but at that point I’m already half asleep. The stress level’s pretty high. I usually try to study from my notes, I’ll look at the book, but I get distracted very easily — with everything, with life in general,” Brown said.

Students, such as Brown, wonder if professors take into account how much work students have to deal with when planning midterms and finals.

“I think it depends on the professor, I think some consider it and realize that we’re only in our 20s and have lives, but others just think that we need to focus in on their class,” Brown said.

According to the Health and Counseling Center, early fall is their busiest time. For the spring semester, more students come in later because of midterms and finals.

“I would say the vast majority of sessions deal with stress. Each student may be stressed about different things, but generally, I would say over 50 percent. About 25 percent of the complaints on the medical side are probably stress related as well, like stomachaches and headaches,” said Jay Cutspec, director of health and counseling. 

According to Cutspec, each year the American College Health Association finds stress to be the No. 1 factor known to affect academic performance. This data comes from 123,000 students from approximately 153 schools.

“The thing about stress and how to relieve it comes down to science. The No. 1 best thing that you can do for stress is exercise. Research has shown that it’s just as effective as anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medicine in making those symptoms better,” Cutspec said.

Exercise is closely followed by sleep and how students build relationships with people. Cutspec also said many students will fall to drinking and smoking as their stress reliever.

Both are short term fixes and in the long run may actually make the problem worse. Cutspec himself said he believes in meditation.

“Lack of sleep makes us irritable and unproductive. You should try and rest though, if you chat with a friend that automatically relieves some academic stress. On a college campus where you have new incoming freshmen, they may be struggling with making connections and can’t get those close friendships. So take some time to interact,” Cutspec said.

For students living in the residence halls, finding a study space may be tricky. Resident Assistants try to help as much as they can and look out for any signs of residents shutting down completely.

“I see my residents getting very flustered during exam times because they don’t know how to study. They become very reclusive, they don’t talk to each other at all and end up studying all day. They usually are in the library and I hardly see them,” said Olivia Bowman, a 21-year old resident assistant in Mills Hall.

According to Bowman, UNCA offers multiple events during final exam week to relieve the academic pressure such as bringing therapy dogs to campus, late night exam breakfast and karaoke and the “Running from Finals” 1-mile run. RAs try to create programs to aid residents in stress relief from studying as well.

“I remember last year during finals time I hosted a coloring session. So we just had a bunch of crayons and coloring books set up at different tables for people to come sit, talk to each other and give their mind a break. Another thing I like to try and do is form groups of people who have similar majors or classes, so that they can study together and have other people quiz them,” Bowman said.

As a junior, Bowman finds extra pressure placed on her.

“Sometimes I think professors forget that this is undergrad and how much is happening. It’s definitely a challenge, but as long as I walk across that stage, I’m pretty happy with myself,” Bowman said.

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