School Stress: The Effects of Stress on Student Health and Wellness

Séverine LEMOINEStress Management

Contrary to popular belief, student stress surpasses that of adults. During the school year, the average student experiences a stress level of 5.8 out of 10. Since adults average on the 3.9 level, this gives us insights into school stress and how it affects student performance as well as health and wellness.

School is only one hurdle that students need to face. While writing essays and finishing other types of schoolwork are priorities for students, too many students put their wellness at the backburner in order to achieve good grades.

Unfortunately, high-stress levels can impact overall health. Here’s what we know about school stress and health.

What Is Stress?

Surprisingly, too many students don’t completely understand stress and the toll it has on our mental and physical health.

We all experience complex emotions. Stress is a reaction to specific emotions, both positive and negative.

There are different stress in school examples we can use. In a positive sense, if you’re preparing for graduation, you may feel a push to get your cap and gown. While we don’t see this push as stress in the typical sense, our adrenaline causes us to achieve the things we want and need.

But stress mainly comes out during negative times. For example, if you have a major exam coming up, you may feel stress and pressure to study in order to pass.

Why do we feel stress? Certain emotions trigger the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands, which is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response. This response is beneficial; if you’re ever in a life-threatening situation, your fight-or-flight response will help you act immediately and can save your life.

Unfortunately, too much of a cortisol release can negatively impact your health. The adrenal gland also controls other vital bodily functions such as glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, and more. Some of the possible effects of high cortisol include:

  1. Decreased bone density
  2. Blood sugar imbalances
  3. High blood pressure
  4. A decrease in muscle tissue
  5. Increased abdominal fat
  6. Impaired cognitive performance
  7. Suppressed thyroid function
  8. Lower immunity

This is why properly managing stress not only improves your mental well-being but also your physical health.

There are also three types of stress. The type of stress you experience can alter the side effects you experience.

Acute Stress

This is the most common form of stress that we experience in our day-to-day lives. For example, if you’re running late and are speeding to class, this response is known as acute stress.

Fortunately, most forms of acute stress are only short-lived and don’t impact your physical and mental health. Using the same example, you’ll likely calm down when you arrive in class.

Chronic Acute Stress

Chronic acute stress (commonly called chronic stress) is a form of stress that occurs when there’s an avoidable situation. It’s common to experience this type of stress for the duration of the situation.

As a student, you likely experience chronic acute stress if you’re taking a class you don’t enjoy and/or are struggling academically.

If you’ll be experiencing this type of stress long-term, you may experience some side effects. These include sleep deprivation and even weight gain.

Episodic Acute Stress

Unlike chronic stress, episodic acute stress is when you experience small stressful episodes over a period of time. Students commonly experience this stress throughout a school semester. For example, you could feel no stress during the semester except during finals.

Episodic stress usually comes on suddenly, which is why symptoms may also be sudden. These symptoms may include tension headaches and even full-blown migraines.

Different Disorders Resulting From Anxiety

Experiencing stress is a normal part of life, especially when you’re in school. However, you should identify the symptoms of a disorder to ensure you have a healthy physical and mental state.

Sleep Disorders

Insomnia is a common symptom of stress. However, you could mistake this symptom for a sleep disorder. In addition, an existing sleep disorder can heighten anxiety problems.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder forms as a result of constant chronic stress. You may also experience physical reactions, such as shaking and muscle tension.

Substance Abuse

Some people choose to handle their stress by indulging in substance abuse, such as alcoholism and drug abuse. College students are especially prime targets for substance abuse; not only are they surrounded by substances on college campuses but the stress they endure can also cause reckless habits.

The Effects of Stress

How exactly do stress and anxiety disorders affect our physical and mental health? Here’s what to look for.

Emotional

Since stress is a reaction to emotions, it’s smart to focus on emotional well-being and how that alters during stressful episodes. Most experience helplessness, hostility toward professors and peers, and even loneliness.

These emotional reactions interfere with how you communicate with professors and engage with other students.

Physical

As stated previously, the adrenal glands regulate many bodily processes. This is why stress is physical as well as emotional.

Some physical symptoms include increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, increased blood pressure, stomach aches, headaches, and fatigue.

Cognitive

Students need powerful cognition to retain knowledge and advance in education. Unfortunately, stress also impacts many cognitive functions. This is why anxiety and cognition are some of the most underrated negative effects of stress on students.

Under severe stress, students can expect to lose concentration, suffer memory loss, and have an overall negative outlook on their education.

Behavioral

We went over some of the behaviors that result from stress and anxiety disorders, such as alcohol and drug abuse. But stress can have even more behavioral effects, which is why stress relief is important.

For example, stress can interfere with your eating habits (both reduced and binged eating). If you’re in a committed relationship, too much stress can distance you from your loved one and can even impact intimacy.

School Stress: Why Your Diet Matters

Now that we know stress has multiple physical effects, students suffering from school stress need to pay close attention to their diet. While eating healthy is one of the most effective stress management techniques, the ingredients you eat also matters.

We optimize dairy ingredients to boost immunity and even improve mental health. If you’re curious about our company, you can learn more about our expertise. Feel free to contact us and discover which food brands use our ingredients.