What is Stress?

It’s not just you - most students experience some periods of high stress while in college or grad school. Stress is typically a feeling of physical tension caused by an identifiable, external source such as exams, deadlines, interpersonal conflicts, or job interviews. Stress, which is generally short-term, is the body’s way of alerting us to an external danger or threat. 

Stress activates our physical Fight or Flight system, an evolutionarily useful response that tenses our muscles, increases our heart rate and breathing, focuses us, and leads to a sharpened awareness.  Importantly, stress can be either positive or negative.

Positive stress can be very motivating!  It can get us in gear to meet a deadline and can even boost our efficiency and memory. Negative stress, however, can lead to irritability, uncomfortable physical symptoms, difficulties with sleep, or feeling overwhelmed.

Getting Help

It’s important to recognize how you respond to stress and to learn some ways of coping with stress before it gets out of hand. Columbia Health works with students, faculty, and staff to develop initiatives designed to support members of the campus community. Learn more about how to cope with stress and resources available at Columbia.