Guest column: Let’s talk about stress

Our senior year of college is one that, by design, causes us to reflect. We reflect on the times we’ve had through a series of “lasts,” and we critically analyze the work we’ve done in our capstones—the culminating point of our undergraduate careers. In our communications capstone, we’ve worked with the combined knowledge and experience of the class to fully analyze community and the significance of that definition in our lives. 

Furthermore, as a small group, we, the authors of this piece, have worked to identify key issues within two communities with which we are familiar. And as seniors getting ready to graduate, we thought it fitting to take the time to review our last few years as members of these two groups: Grand Valley State University students, and Grand Valley State University students with part-time jobs. 

It didn’t take a thorough analysis to notice a shared and glaring problem within each community: our stress levels. Between 15 hours of class, 30 hours of homework, work, and more every week, students are burning out. Collectively, our last few weeks of college have included tears, coffee-stained final essays, library naps and more unhealthy behaviors that have caused us to question just how things have gotten this bad. 

And we get it—we’re millennials. We’re almost guaranteed to be met with eye rolls and declarations of “you think you can have everything handed to you” at the mere slight suggestion that maybe, just maybe, our stress levels are a problem. But with the mental, physical and emotional health problems we see in college students, especially those with part-time jobs, we couldn’t help but think that there’s a better way. 

Do we know exactly what that better way is? Nope. And some may use that to entirely discredit our argument. But we see things this way: Stress levels of students, or, really, Americans in general, are becoming an epidemic. We glorify busy because busy equals success, and success equals happiness. We are told that anything is accomplishable with some grit and passion, and that if we fail, it’s a reflection of a lack of effort.

We want to challenge that mindset. While we don’t think we can single-handedly solve the problem of stress that faces our two communities, or the world, we believe that a dialogue must be started. We need to open a conversation, nationally, about the way we glorify “busy.” We need to be more open in speaking of the effects of stress and be honest with ourselves and others when we are at our limits.

While this needs to happen on a large scale, we think we can start with our two communities. So, GVSU students and GVSU students with part-time jobs: We want to hear you. We understand that classes can’t suddenly be canceled and that many of us still rely on our jobs. However, an important first step in changing this stress epidemic is to start talking about it.