Most students in college have some level of stress from juggling schoolwork, social life, sleep, relationships, work schedules and living away from home. The pressure to do it all and do it all well can be immense and a struggle for many to handle. 33% of EWU students reported that stress was the highest factor affecting their academic performance.
What can you do as a parent?
- Keep in touch. It has become easy to keep up with our students via text or social media. Make sure to call every once in a while. You can often discern things from a conversation, like tone of voice or emotions, that don’t always come through in a text, e-mail, or social media message. You can also let your student know that although they have moved out of the house and are away from home, they are not alone – and you care about their well-being.
- Look/listen for change. Behavior changes can signal emotional health issues. Poor sleep or appetite, a change in self-care (not showering, dressing in markedly different ways), or a difference in speech or in behavior may suggest a problem. If you notice things like these, ask your child about it.
- Help your student recognize that stress is not all bad. A certain level of stress keeps us sharp and focused. The problems arise when we begin to feel out of control. Help your student control their stress.
- Recommend that your student create a schedule or calendar and use all of his/her time management skills. Blocking out what they need to do and when they will do it will help them feel more in control of what they need to accomplish.
- Encourage your student to be patient. As challenging and overwhelming as this time may be, it is a short-lived phase.
- Trust your gut. You know your child better than anyone else. If you feel something isn’t right, take it seriously and reach out to them.
- Report emergencies right away. If your child talks about violence or self-harm or sounds markedly different than usual (disorganized or incoherent speech), let Counseling and Psychological Services or EWU Police know right away.
It is important to start the conversation about stress and mental health at home. The JED Foundation provides a great resource to help you start the conversation!
How much is too much?
If you’re constantly worried about your child, but campus professionals have reassured you that everything is OK, the problem could be you. Some parents have trouble with separation. Talk to a trusted fried or mental health professional that can help you sort things out. It can help to get a second opinion.
(Resource: JED Foundation)
Stress & Distress
Realizing your student could be overly stressed or in distress can be scary. There are a lot of new experiences, decisions, and responsibilities for a first-time college student. Many of these experiences can be overwhelming and hard to navigate. Look for the following indicators that your student may be overly stress at college:
|Academic Indicators||Emotional Indicators||Physical Indicators|
|Decline in academic performance||Direct statements of distress||Lack of personal hygiene or deterioration in physical appearance|
|Extreme test anxiety||Loss of interest in regular activities||Excessive lack of energy/fatigue|
|Missed or late assignments||Tearful and emotional||Visible weight loss or gain|
|Repeated absences||Unexplained or increased anger or outbursts||Changes in eating or sleeping patterns (more or less than normal)|
|Severe reactions to a poor grade||More disorganized than usual||Increased frequency of headaches|
|Increased difficulty in completing tasks||Recurring colds or minor illnesses|
|Greater sense of persistent time pressure||Frequent muscle aches/tightness|
|Mention of drugs or alcohol as a coping tool|