1. Common Health Problems


“A friend of mine had 9 papers to write in 2 days. We all watched her eat 25 peanut butter cups and go into a strange laughing fit we called “crack up!”

– Nancy M., University of Colorado

College years can be great fun. They can also be filled with a lot of stress. You have to deal with a lot of changes. These include:

  1. Separation from home and friends.

  2. Adjusting to a new place to live, which can be small, noisy, cluttered, and lack privacy.

  3. Academic overload and financial demands.

  4. Competition, fear of failure, and making career choices.

Stress is the way you react to these and other changes. Stress can make you more productive. It can make you study harder to get good grades. High stress levels, though, can make you less productive.

Signs & Symptoms

  1. Physical symptoms of stress include increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, tense muscles, sleeping poorly, and changes in appetite.

  2. Emotional reactions include irritability, anger, losing your temper, and lack of concentration.


Prevention and self-care measures deal with most cases of stress. When these are not enough, counseling and/or medical care may be needed. Counseling services at your school may be free.


  1. Listen to music that you find soothing while at a quiet, calm place. Meditate.

  2. Get regular exercise.

  3. Get as much sleep and rest as you can.

  4. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day.

  5. Reduce noise in your environment.

  6. Eat healthy foods. Eat at regular times. Don’t skip meals.

  7. Take a vitamin/mineral supplement that gives 100% of “Daily Values” for nutrients. Don’t take ones marked “Stress Formula” on the label. High doses of some nutrients in these, such as vitamin B6, can be harmful.

  8. Limit caffeine. It causes anxiety and increases the stress response. Avoid nicotine and other stimulants, such as No-Doz and diet pills.

Questions to Ask

Are you so distressed that you have recurrent thoughts of suicide or death and/or do you have impulses or plans to commit violence?

Are you abusing alcohol and/or drugs (illegal or prescription) to deal with stress?

Do you have any of these problems often?

  1. Anxiety.

  2. Nervousness.

  3. Crying spells.

  4. Confusion about how to handle your problems.

Do you withdraw from friends, relatives, and coworkers and/or blow up at them at the slightest annoyance?

Are you unable to cope with a medical problem or does it cause so much stress that you neglect to get proper treatment for it?

Have you been a part of a traumatic event in the past (e.g. rape or assault) and now experience any of the following?

  1. Flashbacks (reliving the stressful event), painful memories, nightmares.

  2. Feeling easily startled and/or irritable.

  3. Feeling “emotionally numb” and detached from others and the outside world.

  4. Having a hard time falling asleep and/or staying asleep.

  5. Anxiety and/or depression.

Talk about your troubles with a family member, a friend etc. who will listen without judging.

  1. Balance work and play. Plan social and extracurricular activities in the time you have left after class, work, and sleep. Don’t take on more activities than you can reasonably do in a given day or week. Set priorities.

  2. Take charge. Although you can’t control other people’s actions, you can control your response.

  3. Don’t try to please everyone. You can’t.

  4. Set up and maintain good study habits. Get prepared for tests and papers throughout the course of the class so you don’t need to cram for them the night before they are due.

  5. Reward yourself with little things that make you feel good.

  6. Help others.

  7. Don’t suppress having a good cry. Tears can help cleanse the body of substances that form under stress. Tears also release a natural pain-relieving substance from the brain.

  8. Do relaxation exercises daily. Good ones include visualization (imagining a soothing, restful scene), deep muscle relaxation (tensing and relaxing muscle fibers), meditation, and deep breathing.

  9. Count to 10 when you’re so upset you want to scream. This gives you time to reflect on what’s bothering you and helps to calm you down.

  10. Modify your environment to get rid of or manage your exposure to stress.

  11. Rehearse for stressful events. Imagine yourself feeling calm and confident in an anticipated stressful situation.

  12. View changes as positive challenges. Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t do well on a test. Plan to be better prepared next time. Ask your academic advisor or others for help.

  13. When a difficult problem is out of control, accept it until changes can be made.

  14. Escape for a little while. Watch a movie, etc.

  15. Laugh a lot. Keep a sense of humor.

  16. Take a warm shower or bath.

  17. Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs to deal with stress. Have a warm cup of herbal tea.