The Student Mind’s Key Questions project has identified that students are curious about the relationship between university life and stress. Connor, a member of our student research team, has been exploring this question further, asking if chronic stress overlooked in students because it is assumed that students should be stressed, and it is normal to be stressed.
Students are stressed. Stressed about failing. Stressed about their finances. Stressed about issues that some would hope to never face, issues that reside in their own living place; whether it be its cleanliness, a sense of loneliness or rather an overwhelming feeling of not feeling secure where they should feel it most (1). Aside from these issues, there is research that suggests social perceptions (from parents, lecturers or in the form of mass media) as well as the students’ own perceptions of how stressed they should be, influences the severity of this stress (2).
Social perceptions of stress may be the difference between someone evaluating their stress as positive or negative. Positive stress tends to go unnoticed, despite its health benefits with coping styles and attitudes towards ones natural emotive state (3). Negative stress, in contrast, tends to attract attention; directly affecting the psychological and physical self, by making functioning more rigid and difficult (self-defeating beliefs about personal control, irrational beliefs etc.) (3).
As a student, I agree with other students who feel that stress is a ‘natural part’ of student life and that this is normal. Though, do I, as all these other students’ value and perceive stress in the same way? To some stress is a natural catalyst which motivates them further to their goal. For others stress is a crucial fact that can deter them from their goal (4, 5).
Research suggests that stress in the student population may be universal, irrespective of culture (6, 7, 8). This is defined by the everyday conversations that are had amongst students, lecturers and even by those who are outside of the education system. When students believe high stress is a normal part of the role of being a student, they may be less likely to seek support for mental health problems (2).
We need to understand what is at the core of student stress. We should not simply accept it and use it in any way we deem ‘normal’, such as subverting proper help when one is severely stressed or struggling. While there is a lack of understanding in the population about how we should challenge social perceptions around stress, I ask again, how has this become our natural? Should I really be this stressed?
Blog by Connor Gayle
We are using this blog to help connect stakeholders across Higher Education interested in student mental health. If you have a project you are working on or an idea you'd like to develop, why not write your own blog post for us?