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    Anxiety and Stress in College

    College students have many understandable reasons to experience stress and anxiety. Whether it’s assignments, transitions, schedules, responsibilities, or any number of other factors, anxiety is on the rise on college campuses. While this may seem overwhelming to college administrators and students, this also means that we have more information about stress and anxiety than ever before. There are also research-driven approaches we can engage with to help tackle this issue.

    Difference Between Stress and Anxiety

    In order to effectively address stress and anxiety, we first need to understand the difference between them. While they have many similarities, they also differ in important ways.

    How They’re Similar –  According to the American Psychological Association, stress and anxiety are both emotional responses. They have very similar mental symptoms, such as irritability and fatigue, as well as physical symptoms, such as sleep disruption and muscle pain. They also both respond well to appropriate coping methods and treatments, which we will discuss later in this post. Stress and anxiety are both very common in the U.S. and within higher education.

    Stress – Whether it is short-term or long-term, stress is usually caused by an external trigger. This evolutionary response allowed our primitive ancestors to survive, but our instinctual fight-or-flight response is often activated even when we aren’t under threat. Removing, confronting, or managing the trigger can be a very effective way to respond to the stress, though we have provided some additional solutions below.

    Anxiety – A common sign of anxiety is persistent worrying that becomes excessive even without an external cause. This may be short-term, but can develop into a longer-term diagnosable disorder. This not only affects mood and disposition, but also one’s general ability to function. Day-to-day tasks can become too much to handle, and professional help may be necessary.

    Stress and Anxiety in College

    While stress and anxiety are prevalent amongst the broader population, they often show up in predictable ways on college campuses. Students experiencing these challenges are in the majority, not the minority; more than 60% of college students experience overwhelming anxiety at some point, according to the Harvard Medical School.

    Academic – College courses are very different from high school or other types of classes, which affects traditional and nontraditional students alike. The expectations and pressures are heightened, there is more independence and responsibility to manage one’s own academic success, and there are many exams and assignments to balance between courses. Upperclassmen may be dealing with concerns about increasing workload, career preparation, or graduation.

    Social – Forming relationships with peers can be very challenging, especially in a new environment. Students may be having a hard time adjusting to social spheres, or they may be experiencing peer pressure. Sometimes, an excess of social activity can negatively impact grades and other responsibilities. Homesickness and loneliness are also very common among students as well.

    Financial – College can be expensive, and even when it isn’t, life can also be expensive. Many students are working full-time or part-time, and their attention is divided between their coursework and their financial obligations. It has also become very common for parents to be enrolled in higher education, which presents additional financial burdens. While there are many opportunities for scholarships and financial aid, the effort required to achieve these awards may be unrealistic.

    Solutions for Stress and Anxiety

    Students should always seek professional help when dealing with any serious mental health concerns, and there are various ways to do this. Upswing partners with BetterMynd to provide 1:1 online mental health therapy for students. While speaking to someone should always be option, there are also methods students can utilize to help themselves before it gets to that point.

    Mindfulness – Awareness of one’s own state of mind can be incredibly helpful for students struggling with stress or anxiety. Taking a moment away from the mountain of assignments and responsibilities can be difficult, but there are many resources that can help. There are many free apps available to help with journaling, meditation, and mindfulness in general. Sometimes, even 60 seconds can be enough to disrupt the cycle of stress.

    Campus Resources – Most college campuses will have a plethora of services for students to take advantage of. Whether it is counseling, support groups, online tools, or mental health events, these resources are often free and readily accessible. For schools that have partnered with Upswing, there are also additional tools available within their Upswing’s Mental Health module for students whenever they need them.

    We offered a webinar for students with additional strategies for managing anxiety and stress. You can watch that webinar to learn more.

    While Upswing provides phenomenal academic support in the form of tutoring, assignment reviews, and more, we understand that today’s students are struggling with much more than that. This is why we have included our Mental Health Module in our student services platform, which includes self-service videos and resources so students can access information about their specific challenges.

    We have also partnered with BetterMynd, a teletherapy company that can significantly improve a university’s counseling capacity. Because BetterMynd takes place online, it is much more accessible for students, especially those with busy schedules or those concerned about stigmas.

    To learn more about how Upswing can support your students, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

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