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Stressful college environment helps pressure students to succeed

On-campus resource for dealing with stress

Counseling and Psychological Services provides confidential individualized therapy and psychiatric care

Located in John Wooden Center West
Crisis hotline available 24 hours a day
Phone: 310-825-0768

SOURCE: Counseling and Psychological Services
Compiled by Neil Paik, Bruin senior staff.

By Sabiha Khan

April 19, 2011 12:03 a.m.

It’s not hard to induce a state of complete and utter panic in a UCLA student these days.

Simply start out by telling him Gov. Jerry Brown recently warned students that UC tuition could double next year.

Then, point out that UCLA posted lower admission rates this year, which indicates increased competitiveness.

Finally, hit him with the current national unemployment level: 9.2 percent.

If you’re not hyperventilating by now, you’re a stronger person than I am. With all of these issues weighing heavily on the average Bruin’s mind, it’s no surprise that the Daily Beast just ranked UCLA among the top 50 “pressure cooker colleges” in America.

But what exactly does it mean when we complain of being “stressed out?” The term “stress” has become a catch-all phrase that defines the college experience.

“Stress” as we use it now is a modern concept originating in the 1950s. The broadening of the term “stress” to include psychological and physical symptoms has helped to usher in what Time Magazine called an “epidemic” beginning in the 1980s.

All college students at some point have trouble balancing academic and social pressures, and that pressure can manifest itself in different ways like exhaustion, anxiety or procrastination. If students broadly define everything that they are feeling as “stress,” it seems overwhelming.

But it is possible to separate things like anxiety or procrastination from the pressure, or “stress,” itself. In fact, such pressure can have positive results when it pushes students to excel.

Certainly, modern life has become more hectic and fast-paced in recent decades. Because of changes in technology and communication, multi-tasking is the new norm, and individuals are expected to accomplish more in less time. And that’s a good thing.

The result of collegiate stress is increased productivity, efficiency and a class of graduates who are better prepared to deal with the rigors of modern life. High stress levels can be a marker of success. Instead of focusing on relaxation and wellness, students should embrace the stress-filled campus environment that UCLA breeds.

Bulletin boards on the Hill display stress management techniques, and Counseling and Psychological Services offers workshops on everything from time management to anxiety and wellness.

“Stress is normal. We want to help students manage stress and take steps early on to help make it less problematic,” said Ancy Cherian, a psychologist and clinical director of Counseling and Psychological Services.

The problem is that most students try to balance academics, social life and multiple campus activi-
ties. Undoubtedly, this can be overwhelming, but some students actually thrive under the pressure.

With the dozens of campus organizations represented on Bruin Walk every day, and every resident assistant and professor urging students to “get involved,” students are piling more and more onto their plates. This will eventually offer an advantage to currently stressed Bruins.

Employers will be more attracted to prospective candidates who have strong, well-rounded resumes. Additionally, graduates are more likely to find a job if they are used to an environment where stress will aggressively and consistently compel them to search for jobs.

At UCLA, though, the toughest competition exists inside the classroom. Most stress stems from the pressure to keep up with peers academically.

Low admission rates ensure that only the best of the best applicants matriculate into the school.

This will make classes more competitive, but increased competitiveness has the added advantage of propelling students forward. Despite all the worries about budget cuts, the quality of a UCLA education can be constantly improved if students are working harder than ever on an individual level.

There is a fine line between being stressed and being overwhelmed. If students cross that line, they should definitely take a step back and possibly rearrange their priorities.

However, there is a certain level of stress that comes along with being a student at an academically challenging and active community like UCLA. College should be stressful.

So next time you see a newspaper headline about the economy or look at your spring schedule and your heart starts beating faster, take a deep breath. It will all be worth it in the end.

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Sabiha Khan
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