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College students work hard and face high stress.
Be Well to Do Well
is a campus effort to encourage students to take control of stress. Merely working harder does not ensure doing better. A small investment in stress reduction can yield significant benefits now and for a lifetime. In fact, students who seek help do better academically. Find out more here . . .

Faculty and Staff face high stress, as well. See UHS Faculty Staff Health Programs for a variety services on stress-reduction, health and wellness, financial wellness, safety, and work-life. While the information below is tailored to students, read on to learn more about how stress can affect the body.


Stress Can Be Toxic to Your Body!
Be Well
Graphic courtesy of Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/

Fact: Stress Impacts Your Academics

Chronic stress interferes with learning and memory1 and students who are stressed-out have lower GPAs than their classmates2. For those students who have learned to manage stress, their grades are not affected by the level of stress2, but approximately one-third are unable to effectively manage their stress3.

A July 2008 study of 24,000 students from 14 colleges and universities showed stress is a problem for 70% of students, and stress has impaired the academic performance for thirty-three percent4.

In a 2007 study, Stress in America, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that stress has had a significant negative impact on the lives of one-half of all Americans, causing physical symptoms (77%), psychological symptoms (73%), and fighting with friends or loved ones (54%).

Other research has found that if we manage our stress we can feel better and function more effectively in school. Studies show:

  • Proven: A single all-nighter lowers GPA5. Adequate sleep is necessary for the brain to process and recall information efficiently1.
  • Effective time management supports lower stress and higher satisfaction13.
  • Healthful eating reduces stress6.
  • Regular exercise reduces stress.7, 8
  • Spirituality and mindfulness meditation leads to lower stress, less depression, greater empathy, higher satisfaction of life, and lowered risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and possibly cancer.1, 8, 9, 10, 11
  • Social support reduces stress.14

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What is Stress?

Stress is your body's response to changes and challenges in your daily life, sometimes described as physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. Often it results when demands exceed resources-such as time, money, sleep, or support.

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Common Stressors

Undergraduate students:

  • Finances
  • Academics
  • Time management
  • Relationships
  • Distant professors
  • Family expectations
  • Sexual and gender identity
  • Adjusting to new environment/culture
  • Immigration/visa issues
  • Housing difficulties
  • Parental conflict
  • Roommate conflicts
  • Death/illness of loved one
  • Career and graduate school decisions

Graduate students:

  • Difficult advisor
  • Research/teaching
  • Pressure to publish
  • Immigration/visa issues
  • Finances
  • Grant writing
  • Death/illness of loved one
  • Adjusting to new environment/culture
  • Balancing relationship/family/school
  • Dysfunctional cohort
  • Departmental politics
  • Sense that life is "on hold"
  • Disillusionment with chosen field/path
  • Job market

In short-term doses, moderate stress can help with focus, motivation, energy, and productivity, but chronic stress is harmful.

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Common Signs, Symptoms and Effects of Harmful Stress:

  • Fatigue
  • Tearfulness
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Impaired concentration and memory
  • Irritability, hostility
  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Strained relationships
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Sexual dysfunction or loss of interest
  • Physical complaints
  • Compromised healt

Your perception, flexibility, and repertoire of responses to stress will affect your capacity to cope and restore balance.


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Are You a Stress-Head?

1. How vulnerable are you to stress? Take this simple test.

2. What do you know about stress? Take this simple test.

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Coping with Stress:

The APA recommends the following tips12 :
  • Identify the sources of stress in your life
  • Learn your own stress signals (i.e. headaches, anger, fatigue, muscle tension)
  • Recognize how you deal with stress (do you use unhealthy behaviors?)
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress (see below)
  • Take care of yourself to maintain health even when not stressed
  • Reach out for support (i.e. friends, family, faith leader, professional)

When faced with stress, it's natural for people to make an effort to respond, but not all efforts are potentially effective. The range of coping behaviors and attitudes is broad and some can actually worsen stress or diminish our capacity to cope.

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Common Things to Avoid in Managing Stress:

  • Use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Unhealthy eating (overeating, fasting, eating junk/sugar/caffeine)
  • Binging on TV, video games, or internet
  • Self berating and belittling
  • Working harder not smarter
  • Sleeping fewer hours
  • Isolating from others
  • Lashing-out with anger and hostility
  • Taking on more work and responsibilities

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Healthy Ways to Manage Stress:

Information (books, journal articles, videos, links, podcasts, etc.) about stress management is available below for the following highlighted items.
  • Adequate sleep*
  • Healthful diet*
  • Regular exercise*
  • Optimism*
  • Social support*
  • Time management*
  • Relaxation*
  • Humor, laughter
  • Generosity
  • Playfulness
  • Spirituality*
  • Journaling*
  • Sex*
  • Forgiveness (of self and others)
  • Creative activities
  • Meditation*
  • Music
  • Hot bath
  • Prayer*
  • Set reasonable limits
  • Positive and realistic self talk*
  • Control only what's controllable-accept the rest

For general information, self-tests, and tips on much of the above:

  1. Stress Management Techniques and Practices, About.Com: Stress Management
  2. Stress, MayoClinic.com
  3. Managing Stress and Transitions Podcasts, University of Minnesota


For printable handouts about ways to manage stress:

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Campus Resources

For Students
The Tang Center provides a wide range of counseling programs to help students with personal, academic, career, health-related issues and crisis concerns. Please visit our stress and anxiety page more information about services and appointments offered at Tang. Visit our Counseling and Psychological Services site for many resources, including online assessments, workshop information, and more.

For Faculty and Staff
See UHS Faculty Staff Health Programs for a variety services on stress-reduction, health and wellness, financial wellness,  safety, and work-life.


Self-help Resources

did you know Studies show students who seek help for their stress and depression perform better academically than those who don't.

>Check Your Mental Health Online
Brief anonymous screenings for depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more. Find out if you could benefit from counseling.
>Stress & stress management: this page is a great start!
>Information about depression: Look for the Signs
>Online training on how to help with depression
>Articles on how to stay well at Cal

did you know Did you know all students get 5 free counseling visits?
Connect with CPS today!

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How to Help Someone Else

did you know Whether you are student, faculty, staff or just a concerned friend or loved one, you have many options for helping a student you are concerned about.

>How to connect with counseling
>Urgent help when Tang is open or closed
>Consultation on how to help someone else
>Helping a friend
>Links to online screenings and trainings

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Food & Body Image Help

did you know 1500-3000 students here at Cal may be suffering from an eating disorder and up to 30% of any U.S. college may be struggling with an eating disorder

>More information about eating disorders
>More information on Tang's Eating Disorder Treatment Team
>Lots of handouts and online resources to help
>Information about the Tang Center's "Food and Feelings" group - for those with concerns about the effects of chronic dieting, exercise obsession, body image and acceptance.
>What's Eating You campaign - for those struggling with eating too much, not eating enough, eating on a budget, body image issues, or just a desire to have better eating habits

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Financial Stress Help

did you know 95 percent of college students say the nation's economic crisis impacted their family's finances last year, and 93 percent have seen an effect on their own bank account.

>Get 5 hints for reducing your stress about money NOW
>Check out the many campus resources that can help


Massage Chair at TangTang Center's Massage Chair

did you know “Having 15 minutes to myself really helped me get through the day (as I had a horrible day prior to my massage). Sitting on the chair and listening to my iPod took me to aplace of relaxation.  I did not want to leave; the massage was GREAT!”

Did you know the Tang Center has an electronic massage chair? To help students reduce their stress levels, this chair will be available FREE to students for 15 minute massages on a drop in, first-come first-served basis. Find out more here.

Massage Chair hours: first come, first serve, Monday - Friday 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm

Directions: Go to the Self-Care Resource Center in Health Promotion, 2nd floor of the Tang Center (2222 Bancroft Way).


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Stress and Stress Management- A Few Recommended Resources

Relationships and Social Support
Spirituality, Relaxation and Meditation
Time Management

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  1. Sapolsky, R. M., (2004). Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide To Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping, New York: Macmillan.
  2. 2007 College Survey Health Report - Health and Academic Performance: Minnesota Undergraduate Students, Boynton Health Service, University of Minnesota, 2008 http://www.bhs.umn.edu/reports/HealthAcademicPerformanceReport_2007.pdf
  3. Mental Health: University of Minnesota, Boynton Health Service, University of Minnesota, 2007 http://www.bhs.umn.edu/healthdata/results/chs/UMTC_07/UMTC_Report2.pdf
  4. Stress a Major Health Problem in the U.S., Warns APA, American Psychological Association, 2007 http://www.apa.org/releases/stressproblem.html
  5. Thacher, P. V. (2008). University students and the "All Nighter": Correlates and patterns of students' engagement in a single night of total sleep deprivation. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 6, 16-31.
  6. Emmons, H. (2006). The Chemistry of Joy. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  7. Exercise fuels the brain's stress buffers, American Psychological Association, 2004, http://www.apahelpcenter.org/articles/article.php?id=25
  8. Blumenthal, J. A., Sherwood, A., Babyak, M. A., et al., A. (2005). Effects of exercise and stress management training on markers of cardiovascular risk in patients with ischemic heart disease: A randomized controlled trial, JAMA, 293, 1626-1634.
  9. Mansky, P., Sannes, T., Wallerstedt, D., et al., (2006). Tai Chi Chuan: Mind-body practice or exercise intervention? Studying the benefit for cancer survivors. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 5, 192-201.
  10. Spiegel, K., Leproult, R., Van Cauter, E. (1999). Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. The Lancet, 354, 1435-1439.
  11. Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E., Bonner, G. (1998). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, 581-599.
  12. Stress Tip Sheet, American Psychological Association, 2007 http://apahelpcenter.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=pageA&item=42
  13. Macan, T. H., Shahani, C., Dipboye, R. L.; Phillips, A. P. (1990). College students' time management: Correlations with academic performance and stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 760-768.
  14. Social support: Tap this tool to reduce stress, MayoClinic.com, 2008

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