Contending with stress

Beneath the stereotypical sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll of college life is another layer: stress.

Students deal with this stress in a variety of ways.

“I look at porn,” said Mike Grisham, a Youngstown State University student.

Craig Latchaw, another YSU student, said he relieves his aggression creatively.

“I draw comic books,” he said. “I usually draw myself as a superhero with no powers.”

Jake Protivnak, chair of the counseling department at YSU, said he knows that college isn’t all fun and games.

“Being a college student is stressful,” he said. “Throughout the entire year, college students are frequently dealing with financial, relationship, academic and family stress.”

Protivnak said incoming freshmen are more stressed out than students who are further along in their academic careers.

“For new students, the beginning of the year can be stressful as they transition to the responsibilities of being a college student, establishing relationships and completing course assignments,” he said.

Protivnak said there is one point in the semester that is the most stressful for all students.

“Finals week is typically a stressful time for all students, as they prepare for exams and finish their projects. For students nearing graduation, this can also be a stressful time because there are anxieties about the uncertainties of life and career after graduation,” he said.

Different students handle stress in different ways. Protivnak said the intensity of stress varies from person to person.

“I have seen some students handle large problems well, and I have seen other students have difficulty coping with seemingly minor annoyances,” he said. “The most problematic cases of stress are students who do not get help with their severe stress and then try to handle it on their own in negative ways.”

Not all methods of relieving stress work for everyone.

“Each YSU student has to determine the most effective and healthy ways to relieve stress for themself,” he said. “The most common and effective ways to relieve minor stress are through exercise, healthy diet and positive relationships with others.”

Protivnak urges students to closely examine their personal mission statements.“Reprioritizing time and attention toward things that are more meaningful may help a student feel less stressful,” he said.

Protivnak said some students will attempt to relieve stress in ways that are unhealthy.

“Binge drinking or binge eating may appear to temporarily relieve stress, but can lead to feelings of depression, increased stress and unintended consequences the next morning,” he said.

Protivnak advised students to watch for the physical and mental effects of stress, like headaches, stomachaches, sleepiness, weight fluctuations, insomnia, anxiety and depression.

“Most frequently, stress is experienced by frequent negative thoughts related to worry, fear, guilt, worry, blame and anger,” he said.

If a student feels that his or her current level of stress is too much to handle, Protivnak suggested scheduling an appointment with a licensed professional counselor.