Students Shouldn't Stress

The start of the school year is almost here and with it comes an influx of new college freshmen. But many of those students will experience a great deal of stress, anxiety and even depression as they navigate the uncertain world of campus life. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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College is a time of excitement and change, but mental health providers say sometimes all the changes can be overwhelming and stressful for new students. And freshmen don't always know what's normal and what's unusual when it comes to stress and anxiety.

"Is it interfering with your daily life?"

That's Michael Winters, the associate director of Rice University's Counseling Center. He says all of the changes, from a new environment to new friends and responsibilities can make it difficult for some students to function.

"Are you missing classes? Are you drinking more? Are you not engaged with people the way you usually are, are you kind of pulling away and being different? Is there a difference in your personality? If you see something like that, that's probably when it has gone beyond just a normal transition to a problem that may need, you know, professional help."

Most campuses, like Rice and the University of Houston, offer free counseling services for students and hand out information about mental health during freshmen orientation. And Betsy Schwartz with the Mental Health Association of Houston says there are things students can do to avoid reaching the point where they are overwhelmed.

"First of all, try to plan your day and have some kind of a regular schedule. The studying requirements are often very, very difficult in college. And, especially for freshmen, that may be a completely new experience. So what's important to help people from feeling totally overwhelmed is to set realistic goals."

Adequate sleep, healthy eating and finding support from friends and family are also key ways Schwartz says students can manage their stress and anxiety. And she says sometimes students don't realize how much all of the changes associated with college life really can affect their mental health.

"You need a coach to help you talk through whatever you're experiencing so that it doesn't progress to a greater level and a greater interference in your life."

Schwartz says research shows about 30 percent of college students are so stressed that it's having a negative impact on their mental health and academic success. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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