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Students should prioritize their well-being, even in rigorous programs

Students pursuing challenging programs should strive to balance work and fun


"Students should practice healthy coping methods to combat stress and improve their mental state." Illustration published on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017.

Stress seems inevitable for college students. However, there are healthy ways that college students can balance their time and maintain a healthy mental state.

At ASU, there are many competitive degree programs that students have to work hard to get into and work even harder to stay in.

The competitiveness of these programs adds an overbearing pressure on students that is hard to manage while trying to establish a balanced college life. 

However, it is necessary for students pursuing such rigorous majors to manage their time well and know when to relax.

Undergraduate students pursuing particularly challenging degrees, such as nursing, law or engineering, become routinely stressed, and as a result, may suffer from mental, physical and emotional problems.

At ASU, 40.9 percent of students said that feelings of depression affected their ability to function, 10.7 percent said they had contemplated committing suicide and 2 percent said they had actually attempted suicide.

According to a journal published by BMC Medical Education, students preparing to go into a medical field experience stress that can often lessen their self-esteem or affect their academic performance.

“(The competition within nursing) does add a lot of extra stress because even though I personally feel like I did a really good job on an assignment, it's still not good enough for the program," Lilly Helchen, a freshman nursing student at ASU, said. "I’m spending all my time studying but it’s still not enough to be a nurse.”

In the 2012-13 school year, 48.7 percent of students in the U.S. went to counseling services to seek mental health help. 

On the other hand, for some college students, the challenges posed by these programs can positively motivate them. 

Angel Garcia, an ASU senior majoring in criminology who plans to attend law school, said that his major is highly competitive.

“I think it’s really competitive because, just like journalism, public policy and criminal justice is something that a lot of people want to be a part of, and it’s always a competition, but it does make you want to be the best,” Garcia said.

Some students who become overwhelmed because they don't know how to deal with stress often engage in unhealthy coping methods and habits. These include procrastination, partying, unhealthy eating and staying up all night to finish assignments. 

“It depends on the student," Stephanie Paige, a graduate teaching assistant at ASU, said. "Some thrive in stressful situations and see competition as a way to improve. Stress in itself is not necessarily bad, but some students can’t handle stress and it can be harmful to mental health. A healthy balance between self care and time management is key.”

An essential factor of coping with stress is time management. Organizing time is crucial to surviving college: make lists, use planners and write down every appointment. It is also vital to budget enough time to study and do homework so students aren't cramming for exams and assignments.

Managing time also makes it easier to go out and have fun, which is another way to manage stress. Taking the time to relax is one of the most effective ways to curb stress.

“(Students should practice) time management, relaxation exercises, deep breathing yoga, sports, working out, releasing endorphins and (having) a good balance between work and fun,” Paige said.

ASU recognizes the pressures put on students and offers ways for students to understand and manage their stress. There are stress management courses and counseling services students can use whenever they feel necessary. There are also on-campus doctors who can talk to students about stress by appointment and refer them to other mental health professionals. 

It is important for students to recognize that their mental, physical and emotional state should take precedence over academics, and they should reach out to the necessary resources when they feel as though their health is at risk. 

Finding a healthy balance between self care and academics is the key to managing stress, especially when enrolling in a demanding degree program.

Reach the columnist at or follow @abbey_warshaw on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.Want to join the conversation? 

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