Psychology professor explains stress and how to manage it

With final exams fast approaching, college students everywhere, including at Sam Houston State University, will soon feel their stress levels on the rise.

For most college students, stress can be too many pages to read, tests to study for and papers to write in too little time.

According to psychology professor Marsha Harman, the biological response to stress is a bit more complex than just a few too many exams.

“When we encounter a threat for which we do not think we can manage, we experience stress,” Harman said. “Stress is brought on by hormones; our first response is either fight or flight. Either way our heartbeat becomes faster, our breathing becomes labored and we may even feel panic.”

Prevention magazine said 75 percent of people may experience “great stress” at least once a week. The article also said only 55 percent of respondents experienced “great stress” on a weekly basis.

“Students may feel stress on a regular basis but one specific time would certainly be around exam time,” Harman said. “Another would be work and the need for money, family and even friends; it just depends on the situation.”

For Harman, the students whose stress levels she is most concerned about are the ones who work while going to school.

“Twelve to fifteen hours is a full load in school and is enough for anybody,” she said. “If you are taking that many hours, you might be better off not working. If you are working full time then taking a full load in school, your schedule will be very stressful and unadvisable.”

According to Harman, stress can not only be frustrating and annoying, but it can also take a physical toll on a person’s body.

“This kind of stress will affect one’s health,” Harman said. “Exercise and time management would be your best bets to control stress. Not overloading yourself would be the first action. As with anything we do, we have to prioritize the important items, work on those, and do other things as able.”

Interdisciplinary studies freshman Callie Carpentier said she feels most stressed during specific times of the semester.

“My biggest stressors are my school work and my social life,” she said. “I generally feel more stressed out during the middle to the end of each semester because that’s whenever things are starting to pull together and grades start to look either up or down.”

The SHSU Counseling Center website says to curb stress, individuals can eat healthier, exercise, have more communication with others, and joke around more.

“The bottom line is, balance your activities or you may fail miserably,” Harman said. “It’s very likely that if you are not looking out for yourself, no one is looking out for you. Take care of yourself and prosper or over extend yourself and collapse.”

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