By Joshua Braaten
Academic Advisor, Student Advising at American Public University
Life can be tough. Work can be tough. Family obligations can be tough. College can be tough. And what happens when you combine all phases of your life into one tough time? Stress.
Although we all travel on a unique and distinctive path, we have two overarching commonalities. First, we all want to better ourselves. And second, we all experience stress.
Stress Is Leading Cause of Withdrawals from School
When you take into account all of the factors that could lead to withdrawing from school, stress is by far the leading cause. According to a Public Agenda study for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, up to 54% of students who dropped out and did not resume their collegiate studies blamed their actions on too much financial stress.
Determining Stress Factors and Finding Coping Mechanisms
In the case of academia, increasing our knowledge and earning a degree enables us to better ourselves. But in order to do so, we must learn and adopt coping mechanisms for stress management.
Everyone is different and we all have different stress triggers, tendencies and coping mechanisms. So what can you do?
Academically, you must first decipher the causes of your stress and what happens, both physically and emotionally, when you encounter stressful situations. Once the causes and effects are understood, you can find coping mechanisms to deal with your stress.
When coping mechanisms are established and built into your routine, your confidence and ability to succeed greatly increase. Partner academic triumph with good health, which can be affected by stress, and you create an effective recipe for success.
The American Psychological Association has published five healthy techniques for dealing with both short- and long-term stress:
- Take a break from the cause of stress. Stop writing your paper and grab some coffee.
- Write a page or paragraph and take a 15-minute walk (repeat until the assignment is done).
- Smile and laugh. Make your assignments fun.
- Get social support. Call your spouse, mom or friend; message your professor; or contact Academic Advising.
- Take deep, satisfying breaths.
It is extremely important to determine your own stress creators and discover your personal coping mechanisms. However, technique 4 is critical for stress management.
When you need social support, do not hesitate to contact your academic advisor. Although we are not experts on stress management, we can provide concrete support and help you make difficult decisions.
For example, we can assist you with course planning/progression and devise a manageable course schedule. We can determine if dropping a course is in your best interest or help you with the difficult decision of choosing a major. And we can introduce you to academic resources that can assist you in classes and in earning your degree. Contact your academic advisor anytime throughout your academic program. Email us at email@example.com, call us at 877-755-2787 or chat with us live. We are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.
About the Author
Joshua Braaten has been in the Academic Advising Department at APU since February of 2012. Prior to APU, Joshua worked for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia and earned a B.S. in Sports Management from West Virginia University.