Why we need to stop normalizing stress

Amy McNeel

Sometimes, as papers and assignment pile up, I feel like I live in a constant state of stress. For college students, extreme levels of stress are really just everyday occurrences that almost feel normal. But really, we shouldn’t normalize heightened stress and we shouldn’t glorify it, either. Stress can be serious, and we should treat it accordingly. While we all experience it in different degrees, stress can affect all areas of life, whether we are aware of it or not. 

College in general is stressful. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get good grades, to get into a specific major, to pass difficult classes and to make something out of our lives afterward. Overall, it feels like our whole future is dependent on right now. Given this mindset, it’s no wonder we experience stress. With high expectations and incredibly long to-do lists, sometimes the workload gets the best of us. 

While some stress is normal and expected, high levels of stress can be dangerous. According to WebMD, “Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, … asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety.” Since stress can make you feel tired or emotional, it can also build up stress-related tension in the body that ultimately affects overall health. WebMD also states that “75 percent to 90 percent of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” Stress may seem like a small issue, but it has large side effects. 

As college students with high expectations and workloads, we are extremely prone to high levels of stress. It’s important that we understand what stress is, what causes it and how we can each deal with it. When I think of stress at school, I think of it as an endless cycle. We are stressed out because we have so much to do and want good grades. We get less done and don’t do as well because we are stressed out. Finally, our lack of success stresses us even further. Like I said, it’s an everyday part of our lives. 

Overall, I think the severity and implications related to stress are largely overlooked. Stress can cause mental instability and physical ramifications, and it can also impact social life. It can make you feel tired, irritable, depressed and unmotivated. So, why do we consider these feelings to be normal? We shouldn’t live our lives under constant stress. 

At college, we experience stress all the time without really knowing its consequences. And while some stress is normal and healthy, heightened stress is not. I think that stress is a huge issue for students that needs to be taken seriously. It affects both our lives and our grades, and it also affects us each differently. Instead of experiencing it and recognizing it as an everyday part of life, we need to treat stress as the serious issue that it is.