Students at Weber State University are more stressed than the average American college student, according to an annual survey.
The survey, called the National College Health Assessment, found that 30.7 percent of WSU students listed stress as the No. 1 factor affecting their individual academic performance, compared to the national average of 29 percent.
“Stress is certainly out of control on campus,” said Mike Olpin, Ph.D., a professor of human performance. “I don’t know anyone who’s not stressed.”
Olpin, who is also the director of the WSU Stress Relief Center, said he believes one of the reasons WSU students rank higher in stress levels has to do with some of their other lifestyle choices.
“They’re more of a ‘Utah’ campus; they don’t do the drinking or smoking or drugs,” he said.
According to the NCHA, the national average for alcohol use among students is 4.5 percent, compared to 0.6 percent at WSU. The national average for drug use is 1.7 percent, compared to 0 percent at WSU.
Julia Darley, a health promotion major and intern at the Student Wellness Center on campus, said a program called PAWS has been created in response to the results of the NCHA survey.
“It’s Peer Advocates for Weber Students,” she said. “Our student population is so stressed.”
The PAWS group, made up primarily of human performance majors, looks for opportunities to educate and help students in dealing with stress in healthy ways.
“We try to address those needs by promoting awareness,” Darley said. “We teach about mindful eating and benefits of exercise to help boost your mood and refresh your mind for studying.”
Olpin explained that stress is the body’s response to what is known as the “fight or flight” instinct. He said one way to counter feelings of stress is through regular exercise.
“Through physical activity, you can satisfy the physiology of wanting to move,” he said. “This helps alleviate the ‘fight or flight’ instinct.”
Olpin, who created the Stress Relief Center five years ago, said students who are experiencing stress should take advantage of the center and some of its unique offerings, including massage chairs, a chi machine, light therapy and inversion tables.
“There’s no model for this (center),” Olpin said. “I haven’t seen one anywhere in the country quite like what we’re doing here.”
Jody Baird, a junior majoring in elementary education, said she is well aware of many of the pressures that come with being a student.
“I feel like I’m constantly stressed as a student, between going to school full-time, working 35 hours a week, being a newlywed, and just buying a house,” she said.
Baird said some of her techniques for handling stress aren’t great.
“Sometimes I cry, sometimes I’ll go exercise, sometimes I’ll eat junk food,” she said. “Either way, stress always beats me.”
Olpin said anger can sometimes become a noticeable emotion in people who are in a chronically stressed state, causing them to lash out at times. Baird said she can feel the effects of stress strain her interactions.
“Stress really does make a huge impact on my relationships,” she said. “It’s hard to just be myself and be present when there are a million other things going through my head.”
Olpin also recommended a few other healthy ways to deal with stress.
“Eat nutritionally, turn off the TV, teach yourself not to worry,” he said. “Singularly, the most important thing is to stay in the moment — you’re safe in this moment, here and now.”