With the increased workload weighing down on university students during the semester, it’s not uncommon for stress levels to increase. According to the National College Health Assessment, many university students battle mental health struggles like anxiety, stress and depression. Nearly 25 per cent of the subjects in the study, which polled students from several Canadian post-secondary institutions, reported having these issues and 16 per cent had been given diagnoses for both anxiety and depression.
As they attempt to reconcile academic requirements with their day-to-day obligations, students in higher education often face challenges that could lead to unfavourable outcomes including burnout, anxiety and depression. Some education professionals and institutions create a healthy and positive learning environment where students can achieve both academic and personal success by providing them with the resources and support they need to perform their responsibilities.
It is important that university students learn to practice good coping skills in order to handle stress better and to keep their mental health in good shape. According to the Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, finding coping mechanisms during stressful situations can enhance cognitive and behavioural patterns. To do so, students need to recognize and apply the methods that help them manage their personal and academic commitments to lower their stress levels and improve their general well-being.
“Maximizing sleep, eating well, eating regularly, making sure that you’re hydrated, that you have breaks and downtime [and] that you have social support are the basics of mental health hygiene,” said Jennifer McCormick, a registered psychologist at Mount Royal University (MRU).
Students perceive and cope with stressors in different ways, depending on past experiences and stress levels. Signs of having a higher stress level could have an impact on individual academic performance, irritability, sleep, eating habits, negative self-talk and interactions with others.
“I feel stressed with deadlines,” said Jonina Walkowiak, a student at MRU. “I cope by going to bed after working on assignments and not thinking about them until the next day.”
Everyone has different approaches when it comes to dealing with stress effectively. Practicing habits in stress relief has shown improvement in academic success, social scenarios and maintaining long-term goals.
“Because we all have our own experiences of managing stress, whether we know it or not, getting to know how we’ve managed it in the past is important,” said McCormick.
Not all stressful experiences are considered to be bad for your mental health, having a positive feeling can also contribute to a stressful emotion.
“Sometimes even great things can create an experience of stress or feeling drained,” said McCormick.
But even with relieving stress in ways that work best for the individual, many students face the fatigue that is common throughout university due to balancing workloads and social lives.
Julia Rand works at the Wellness Centre and is the coordinator for the Stepping Up program provided at MRU. Rand emphasizes the importance of preventing fatigue due to stress and promotes a healthy lifestyle for students in order to reduce stress.
“MRU has a beautiful facility for lifting weights, working out and swimming. I would highly recommend that. It’s [also] always important to get quality sleep and eat quality foods,” said Rand
Jane Marie Capote, a university graduate from MRU, has undergone five years of schooling while doing two minors. She wants to become a doctor and has dealt with the stress of balancing school and daily life.
“Allow yourself to rest without feeling guilty about it,” says Capote.