Effects of Stress on Grades

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Students at universities worldwide oftentimes find stress to be a part of everyday life. Stress is defined as the way one responds to the changes and demands of life either emotionally, physically, or mentally. Stress is registered in one’s “fight or flight” response. When an exciting or dangerous event occurs changes take place in the body to prepare the person to deal with the stressful situation. After the stressful situation has subsided the body returns to a normal state. The constant stress of being a college student does not allow the body to return to a normal state so a student may never be able to fully relax. This can lead to stress overload (Bower, 2010). Many factors can affect a student’s academic performance and grades. The National College Health Assessment of 2004 shows that the most significant impediment to effective listening, retaining information, and studying is stress. Stress is noted to be the number one cause of poor academic functioning in a student above other problems like depression, illness, eating disorders, death of a family member, and even sexual assault. The study reviewed 47,202 college students and 32.4% listed stress as the number one barrier to schoolwork (Temple, 2006). Many college students have multiple stressors. Most are taking multiple classes, working full-time jobs, have family members to take care of, are working long hours at unpaid internship sites, or any combination of these. Many college students must deal with the stress of just leaving home and no longer benefiting from familial support. Relationship problems may begin to develop between the student and the friends, families, or significant others that have been left at home. This overload of responsibility and worry can lead to a lack of sleep and improper nutrition, which can cause difficulty in school (Bower, 2010). Proper nutrition may become a problem for a student because he or she may be unable to grocery shop on a regular basis. Other problems with nutrition occur because a student who is living in a dormitory may be unable to cook proper meals and unable to store large quantities of food. Some students new to living without parents may not have the knowledge to cook a decent meal. Others simply do not have the time to eat properly. Without proper nutrition the brain does not function properly and the student may have difficulty concentrating on schoolwork (Womble, 2002). Maintaining employment while attending college can also be a source of stress. This stress may come from working long hours that can make the student too tired to focus on his or her studies or working long hours may lead to attendance problems at school. Mentally focusing on both work life and school life can be exhausting for a student and can lead to increased amounts of stress. The number of hours a student spends at work can be directly related to that student’s grade point average (GPA) because the more time a student spends at work, the less time that student can spend studying (Womble, 2002). Sleep, or lack of, is the most important factor on a student’s GPA. Many college students do not sleep enough during the week to properly rest the body and mind. Lack of sleep has been shown to increase anxiety and stress. Simple sleep patterns like waking earlier during the weekdays than on the weekends have also been shown to affect the GPA of a student (Womble, 2002). Not all college students complain of experiencing stress, many do. Although some stress is good for a person and may be energizing or motivating, it is important for a person to recognize and be able to manage bad stress before it spirals out of control and has a negative effect. Coping mechanisms are important for anyone but may prove to be more so for a college student. Coping mechanisms include sleeping enough, spending time doing fun activities, relaxing, and practicing time management. Developing ones communication, writing, and test taking...
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