Students define stress and how they cope with it

By Paul Vigna

SO MUCH has been written over the past year about the effects of the pandemic on young people.

One of the more fascinating studies on that topic was one just released by the Stanford University, which found that stress from the COVID-19 pandemic prematurely aged adolescents’ brains, making them more like those of peers about three years older.

By comparing MRI scans from children taken before the pandemic with scans from other kids taken during the pandemic, the study found that changes in brain structure that occur naturally with age sped up in adolescents as they experienced the COVID-19 lockdowns. That could have lasting implications for those youths if the changes are found to be more than temporary, according to a story from the Los Angeles Times that was published by PennLive.

The new study adds to a growing amount of evidence that children suffered mentally, emotionally and academically from pandemic school closures and the resulting isolation and family stress. A Stanford-based independent research group in 2021 found evidence that younger children’s ability to read aloud suffered, and newly released standardized test scores showed demonstrable decline in Pennsylvania and across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March reported that 37% of high school students reported poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.

That’s all on top of the overall stress the country is feeling about the state of the economy and the direction it is taking.

The most recent results from the American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America report, released in October, showed a “battered American psyche, facing a barrage of external stressors that mostly are out of personal control.”

As a news organization that covers the York College campus and York community, addressing that topic from multiple angles is one our most important goals.

So the staff of The Spartan once again fanned out to interview students around campus. They were seeking answers to these same three questions we have asked before: How much of an issue is stress for you? Is it worse now in college then it was in high school? What are two or three personal things you like to do to cope with stress during the academic year?

Here’s what they found:

Conrad Ogden

Junior Conrad Ogden was arriving at the Johnson Dining hall when The Spartan met with him to ask how the stress of finals was affecting him. 

“Stress is pretty high,” said Ogden, a Computer Science major “I’m feeling swamped.”

When compared to the stress he experienced while in high school, the stress of college is “way higher,” he said. “Compared to college, high school was kind of a breeze.”

To cope, Ogden plays video games.

“I like Elden Ring,” he said. “Though, sometimes it adds to the stress.”

Ellie Denlinger

Ellie Denlinger was in the lounge right outside of the Johnson Dining Hall. She too was feeling stressed by finals.

“Stress levels are pretty high,” she said. “It’s definitely worse than high school. High school was, well, different.”

Denlinger, a Senior Early Education major, tries to find healthy ways to cope with the stress. 

“I like exercising,” she said. “It helps. So do arts and crafts,” she added. “I love to paint.”

– Nathan Leakway

Stress is always around but during college it reaches a high level for kids who are not used to being on their own, juggling classes and work, or simply just being away from home. Talking to students is a great way to look into the mind of those who are going through stress on a daily basis. How they cope with it can help others who are struggling find ways to beat stress and anxiety.

Jackson Wright

Talking to freshman Jackson Wright, he finds an escape by taking mental breaks and talking to friends. “When something is stressing me out whether that’s social life or with classes,” he said. “I like to take a break from everything and relax.” This is a great tool to use when you are feeling overwhelmed with life. Taking a moment to breathe and relax can help assess a situation.

Noah Levitan

For sophomore Noah Levitan, he finds relief in going to the gym. “College has been way more stressful than high school having to do things on my own with no one looking over me. I found peace in going to the gym and using that hour to let everything go,” he said. This offers an escape from reality and is good to do when you want to better yourself mentally and physically.

Ryan Landis

Freshman Ryan Landis said that stress is not as common for now but he does experience being overwhelmed at times and he uses video games to calm down. “Trying to juggle classes with being a good friend and making the most of my college experience is hard, but when I feel stressed I like to play video games with my friends.”

– Julian DeLeon

Nick Bordovsky, Class of 2026 is a Sport Management major. He said stress is definitely an issue in his day-to-day life. However, I determine how much it affects me. If I start getting negative instead of accepting my workload, it only makes it harder to accomplish things,” he said.

Nick Bordovsky

Added Bryan Collins, Class of 2026 and a Political Science major: “I think admitting to yourself you have stress and learning to deal with it is important. It is a problem everyone faces in college and knowing when to give yourself a break is crucial to success.”

Bryan Collins

James Lyon said that stress is not much of an issue for him because he does everything he can to avoid it. “Although it’s sometimes unavoidable, I do everything in my power throughout the semester to avoid the pitfalls of cramming in assignments at the last second,” said Lyon, a freshman Supply Chain Management major. “However, when it comes to it, I like to take a lot of caffeine or exercise to get my focus ready.”

James Lyon

– Chris Hulsart

Mason Bernardo is a sophomore Biology major who said that stress has been a big factor in the majority of problems that has had to deal with, usually due to the workload and/or the difficulty of the classes themselves.

“Personally, I try to schedule out my days ahead of time to keep up with my schoolwork, and in between my classes I go to the library and study to keep myself in the academic mindset throughout the day,” he said. “I also know how I work, if that makes sense. I understand when I can sit there and grind out assignments, and when I’m better off working out or doing something else productive. Being self-aware and disciplined is key to coping with stress; basically, don’t procrastinate and the times you find yourself needing a break or putting an assignment off will be there because you’re already ahead.“

Being self-aware and disciplined is key to coping with stress.

Mason Bernando

Stress has always been an issue in college, said junior Mitch Seipt, a Mechanical Engineering, and it has definitely gotten worse since high school. “Things I like to do to help alleviate the stress is exercise and use small study groups to maintain a schedule,” he said.

– Kai O’Brien

Finals week is upon us and it is coming fast. It’s arguably one of the most stressful times of the year, whether it’s trying to bump that letter grade up, pass a class or whatever it may be.

Isabelle Baldi

Isabelle Baldi, a senior majoring in Criminology, said that “stress is huge for me, since I suffer from anxiety. She mentioned it is way worse in college than it was in high school due to her busy schedule and school work. “I go to the gym, I talk to my boyfriend or family members, and I take naps.” Baldi said. Like many of us fellow students, she emphasized how excited she is for this semester to be over just so she can catch a break.

Reagan Licata is a senior majoring in public history. “Stress is a pretty big issue for me, I would say it is more so in college because I’m a lot closer to my adult like and career,” she said.

Reagan Licata

Licata mentioned a few things she likes to do to relieve some stress, such as going to the gym and working out, and hanging out with friends and family. She also shared the common theme between most students, that she is counting down the days until the end of the semester. That means she is one semester closer to graduation.

– Lee Kling

Kassie Speary

Kassie Speary, a senior studying Early Education, said that since she stays ahead of her assignments and upcoming due dates that stress isn’t a huge issue for her. 

Three things that Speary does to help during the times she is stressed include listening to music, coloring and staying organized. 

However, Speary said that college is definitely more stressful for her than high school was because of all the added responsibilities of being a college student. 

“In high school I was required to go to school, in college you’re your own boss. You have to decide to go to class and do your work. It’s all on you to succeed,” she said. “And you make these decisions based on motivators. A motivator for me is that I want good grades, so I go to class and do the best I can.”

Abilgail Sims

On the other hand, Abigail Sims, a freshman studying pre-med biology, said high school was “far worse” when it comes to stress in her experience.

Sims said that she “bit off more than she could chew” in high school. Learning from that experience she was able to plan better for her first semester in college, she said.

Despite stress being less now she said that it still poses as a big issue for her.

Sims said when she gets very stressed it can be hard to calm down after getting to a certain point. To combat the stress she tries “to take good mental breaks and stay ahead on assignments.” 

She finds that these breaks “can really help relieve stress and writing down assignments help me not to get too far behind.”

She explained that “these breaks are either a 20-minute TV show or 20 to 30 minutes reading a book.”

And she added that during the field hockey season her “brain breaks” were practice and games.

– Abigail Balderson

READ MORE: YCP’s Bastress still ‘hooked’ on coaching as wrestling program continues to build on its successes

READ MORE: 3 perfect off-campus study spots to consider as finals approach

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