Stress and older college students

Stress is a physical and psychological reaction to issues and situations in your environment. These can be situations that you perceive to be stressful such as not reaching your goals or facing a life challenge. No matter what the reasons we all face stress on a daily basis. The thing that differentiates one college student from the next is the ability to cope with that stress and rise above.

Stress and older college students will usually develop over time and may even go unnoticed by the student until the physical and emotional toll leads to physical symptoms. These physical symptoms can include upper respiratory infections such as colds or sinus infections, exacerbations of allergies, gastrointestinal upset that leads to vomiting or diarrhea or even itching.

Older college students face stressors that younger students don’t have in their lives. Stress and older college students isn’t uncommon since the older student must face the challenges of college classes with other life stressors such as family, spouse, children and jobs.

There are warning signs of stress and older college students that can help the adult to face the issues with stress management or learning to just say ‘no’!

Changes in sleep patterns such as taking longer to fall asleep or waking up tired and not well rested. Although you may sleep through the night your mind isn’t resting adequately when you are stressed which leaves you feeling tired in the morning.

You may notice more headaches than usual from the stress. These headaches are usually exacerbated by continuing to work through them and will get better by relaxing with a warm cloth across your forehead. People often call these tension headaches.

An increased level of frustration and anger isn’t uncommon. You may find that your spouse or children cause you greater frustration than normal. You may lose your temper faster or more frequently. Take heart – their behavior hasn’t gotten worse, your stress has!

You are more disorganized than usual and may miss a deadline or a paper.

You may get more colds or have a more difficult time getting over a cold. You may develop other minor illnesses such as increased number of cold sores, if you suffer from them, strep throat, gastrointestinal bugs or the flu.

You may also find that you weight is fluctuating and your eating habits are changing. You may be hungry all the time or never hungry – which ever it is, it is different from the norm for you.

Older college students experiencing stress should consider using proactive stress management. In other words, initiating stress management techniques before experiencing the symptoms that you are already over the edge with stress. There are daily stress relievers that you can use in the moment such as deep breathing or taking a 10 minute walk outside to ‘clear your head’. But there are other relaxation and stress management techniques that can help with stress and the older college students.

Your mind and body are integrated as you can see with the issue of stress. The higher the stress level the more physical and emotional symptoms you exhibit. Stress will trigger hormonal reactions in your body that can lead to more long term problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It is no wonder then that physical activity will also help to reduce stress in the older college students. Adding a physical workout to your schedule for 30 minutes at least every other day may seem like a lot when your time is already stressed but you’ll find that with a decreased stress level you are sleeping better and more productive.

Older adult age college students should also learn to manage their time and not have their time manage them. You are in control of your schedule – it isn’t in control of you. You have the option of rescheduling some appointments, doing dinner in a different way, packing a lunch or going out when the occasion calls for it, or even just unplugging the phone when the kids are all home and taking the night off.

And most importantly don’t sweat the small stuff. So many times we get hung up in the details when they don’t affect our over all goals or achievements. Ask yourself – will this situation really matter in 24 hours or 3 days?

RESOURCE

Adult Education Quarterly: Dealing with the stress of College
http://aeq.sagepub.com/content/59/3/246.abstract

Colorado Christian University: How Stress Affects Adult Students’ Concentration
http://www.ccu.edu/blogs/cags/2012/01/how-stress-affects-adult-students-concentration/

AOL: top 6 Reasons Adult College Students Drop out
http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/08/13/top-6-reasons-older-college-students-drop-out/

eNotes: Adult Students Suffer from Significant stress
http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/adult-students-suffer-from-significant-stress-392350

USA Today: Who’s Feeling Stressed
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/06/stress-psychology-millennials-depression/1878295/

Bfusiness Week: Stress Takes its toll on college students
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-10/stress-takes-its-toll-on-college-students

GoAskAlice: Starting College at 30 – Coping with Stress
http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/starting-college-30-coping-stress

University of Wisconsin: Fears, Concerns and Challenges
http://barron.uwc.edu/admissions/adult-students/concerns

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