Midterms exacerbate mental health issues and elevate stress

Nicoletta Veneziano | Staff Columnist

Dismissing stress and anxiety as something that is typical for every student is a pretty common. As midterm week is upon us, the mental health of university students deserves a shining spotlight and utmost attention. The amount of stress and anxiety that midterms and exams in general cause is outrageous.

Although these feelings of stress and anxiety are a constant cycle in everyday college life, midterm week has its role in encouraging unhealthy mental habits in student life as well. The university makes its efforts in trying to help the students during these stressful times. For example, they suppose the idea of keeping the library open 24 hours during the week is making it more convenient to make time to study. In reality, this is creating a miserable environment that prevents students from getting the proper amount of sleep necessary to even function. Staying up all night to prepare for midterms should not be encouraged, especially through the university itself.

Another alarming idea the university proposed for the week was an event that suggested “free blood pressure readings for midterms.” This event is undoubtedly hinting at the fact that midterms cause a spike in stress, thus a spike in blood pressure. Increases in blood pressure related to stress can be extremely dramatic. According to the Mayo Clinic, temporary spikes in blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, heart and kidneys in a way similar to long-term high blood pressure. An event that admits that midterm week can cause this blood pressure spike in students is exceptionally disturbing.

While a certain amount of anxiety is completely normal in certain college experiences, it is imperative to notice if this feeling escalates into something more distracting or harmful. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80% of college students report that they feel stress on a daily basis. This being said, stress comes hand-in-hand with several other difficulties. It can lead to further feelings of depression, sleep difficulties, weakened immune system and so much more.

Cindy Lui, a psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, conducted a study with over 100 college campuses and over 67,000 college students. When asked about stress and anxiety, the study showed that 1 in 5 students had thoughts of suicide, and 1 in 10 students have attempted it. These statistics are simply from the pressure of perfection in the academic aspect of college life.

“Even if you have a student who is doing well in school, it doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with something internally,” Liu said. “You have to peel back more layers. That is the real struggle for parents and colleges — identifying those students who are quietly enduring a significant mental health experience.”

Identifying mental illness in others, as well as yourself can be challenging. These illnesses can take many forms from depression or anxiety, eating disorders, addiction and even suicide. Although it may be difficult to come to terms with any illness, it is imperative to be familiar with symptoms, as well as helpful resources in the college environment.

I want to remind everyone of one final idea for midterm week: your mental health comes above all other priorities. Do what is necessary to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Take breaks. Get a decent amount of sleep. Ask for help. Eat three meals a day. You are a human being that is not defined by a percentage on an exam or a letter on a transcript. Keep working hard and maintaining a positive attitude, and enjoy the college experience while it lasts.

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