Avoiding Angst

by Alyssa Reeves
as published in Fall 2007 issue of STATEments Magazine 

How changing your attitude can make life more enjoyable

written by Alyssa Reeves

    Thousands of students at Kansas State University are at risk.  As the semester nears an end, occurrences piqued.  The common symptoms include cold hands, tense muscles and slowed digestion.  Is there a rare disease spreading across Manhattan?
    No, these are signs of stress.
    The consequences of stress are often overlooked.  Art Rathbun, K-State counselor and biofeedback specialist, says the average college student will experience 200 stressors a day. Fortunately, understanding stress and learning to change the way you react to stressors can help reduce or even avoid the effects of stress.


    Rathbun recognizes stress as “the mental and emotional responses to stressors.” Students may feel stressed when a teacher gives a test that seems unfair, or a student may feel threatened with the risk of failing and may react with anger.  According to Rathbun, this type of negative response tends to dampen a student's overall performance.
    An appropriate way to react to this type of situation is to accept that it is out of your control. Stress is a normal part of life, but neglecting to manage it can lead to hypertension, chronic headaches and backaches, or acne. “It’s going to have significant effects on your mental function,” says Rathbun.

    Ever wonder why your perky classmate seems as cool as a cucumber about the same test for which you have been frantically studying for the last two weeks? Stress affects every student differently, depending on factors such as attitude and lifestyle.  Perfectionists and students who have not learned how to deal with stressors will stress out more than their peers.  Freshmen and seniors are more prone to stress than other undergraduates. While freshmen are learning to adjust to college life, seniors are wondering, “What’s going to happen to me when I leave college?”
    Freshman Patrick Steele, Leavenworth freshman, experiences stress on a daily basis. He ranks school as his top stressor. “It causes stress, which can be directly correlated with my relationships, both intimate and social, since it negatively affects what time I have to spend with my friends and what time I have to engage in my studies,” says Steele. Recognizing and dealing with his stress, Steele says he understands that worrying about exams aren’t going to get him the grade he wants, but relaxing and studying will ultimately yield the most desired results.

    Is there a key to making it through college stress-free? Rathbun doesn’t think so.
    “There is only one way to avoid stress,” he says. “That is to die.”
    So perhaps stress cannot be completely avoided for those of us among the living, but there are several strategies to reducing its effects and magnitude.  First, it's all about the attitude.  You know that guy who walks around like he's mad at the world or that girl who completely freaks out if she receives any grade less than an A?  They're probably a little more stressed than necessary.
    "When you come to college, you should really approach it as a wonderful experience, that you're going to have failures and you're going to have success," says Rathbun.
    It is essential to examine your attitudes in order to change them: Ask yourself if your attitudes are really helping you or if they are hindering you.  Though it may be beneficial to set your goals high, deciding you have to be perfect in all you do is an attitude that will eventually cause you difficulty.
    Additionally, don't be afraid to seek help.   Rathbun says that men struggle with seeking help the most. “Men, particularly, don’t like to go to the doctor,” he says. Maybe your stress isn’t life threatening, but refusing help for seemingly less-important issues creates a bad habit in handling bigger issues.
    Rathbun cautions students to avoid certain activities as well, such as drinking and using drugs.  "Don't take up smoking unless you really want to end your life in a miserable way," he says.  Avoid isolating yourself; staying in your room and playing video games all day isn't going to solve anything.  Act early and don't feel uncomfortable doing it.
    "That's what the services are here for," Rathbun reassures.  "No one should suffer from the effects of stress.  It's not the way we should live.  Come, get some assistance and help to work through stress so you have a better and more fulfilled life."