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Understanding Student Stress

By Niku Sedarat


Student life is often characterized as a time of growth, exploration, and learning. However, beneath the surface, many students grapple with a silent but pervasive adversary: stress. From looming deadlines to academic expectations and social pressures, students often face a myriad of stressors that can impact their mental and physical well-being.

The relentless pursuit of academic success, fueled by high expectations from oneself, parents, and society, can create immense pressure on students. Striving for top grades, excelling in extracurricular activities, and preparing for standardized tests along with the added stress of balancing coursework, part-time jobs, social activities, and personal responsibilities can be overwhelming for students. Poor time management skills can exacerbate stress levels, leading to procrastination and last-minute cramming.

Especially for college students, financial stressors can play a significant role in one's experience of stress.  Rising tuition costs, student loans, and the cost of living can weigh heavily on students' minds, impacting academic performance and overall well-being, as students worry about making ends meet and securing their future.

Beyond academic and financial pressures, students may also grapple with significant social stresses. Peer relationships, social acceptance, and the desire to fit in can contribute to stress among students. From navigating social dynamics to dealing with peer pressure and loneliness, maintaining a social life while juggling academic responsibilities can be challenging.

The abundance of stressors students experience is quite simply undeniable and one can not help but to question whether these factors contribute to the raging youth mental health crisis we see in our world today. 

Stress, in itself, can have significant physical and psychological consequences. However, as stress grows and persists over time, the consequences multiply in parallel. Chronic stress can hinder concentration, memory retention, and cognitive function, ultimately impacting academic performance. Students may experience difficulty focusing in class, completing assignments, and performing well on exams, contributing to an ongoing loop of stress. 

Prolonged exposure to stress can increase the risk of developing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression among students. Feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and fatigue may become pervasive, affecting students' overall quality of life.

In addition to emotional impacts, stress can manifest physically, leading to symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, and weakened immune function. Neglecting self-care and engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse can further exacerbate these issues.

Oftentimes, students have a very ambivalent approach to stress, seeing it as an ordinary component of their day-to-day life. And, there is some reality to this. Our body's stress response system–the body's natural reaction to perceived threats or challenges, triggering physiological changes designed to help us cope with and adapt to stressful situations—has been foundational to our survival. However, the great extent to which stress is experienced in many students today can inversely undermine our survival too, leading to a greater risk of mental health challenges like suicide. 

Student’s stress must be taken seriously—by everyone, including students themselves. 

It is completely possible to cultivate balance in life while also excelling academically, and this is a fact that we must continue drilling into our mindsets by employing stress management strategies. Learn more about stress management here: Stress Management (

Remember, you are not alone! Stress is a serious topic and it’s imperative that we reach out for support. For free, culturally responsive mental health resources, refer to Resources | unitémentalhealth (


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