Brittany Twilley knows what it means to have a heavy course load. As a junior studio art major with an emphasis in painting and drawing at Mississippi University for Women, she is well aware of the importance of college students finding balance. She has given up the luxury of going to social events, joining social clubs and sororities and even participating in more than 70 organizations on campus so that she could take the required night classes and lessen her stress.
Most college students have to take 19 credit hours a semester, yet they still choose to participate in every organization offered on campus, but with fun and entertainment added to the time consuming homework comes the woes of stress.
According to NBC. com, one in five undergraduate students are constantly stressed. Many students do not realize the effects stress has on the body both physically and mentally and that when it goes unchecked it can lead to anxiety disorders, depression and even suicide.
“Students fail to understand that there is such a thing as bad stress and good stress,” said Golda Vandiver, the health and kinesiology instructor and stress management professor at MUW. “The problem lies when students do not handle their stress in a positive and healthy way.”
Some of the factors that contribute to stress for college students are intimate relationships, roommate conflicts, money, career choices, raising a family, academic deadlines and peer pressure.
Twilley can relate with the challenges of roommate conflicts because when she transferred to The W from a community college she roomed with a student from China.
“Living on campus, away from my parents for the first time was stressful enough, but rooming with a person who is not from America was tough to handle,” said Twilley.
This is not a new scenario for students who are dealing with adjusting to living in close quarters with a person they have never met. Compatibility between two people plays a huge role in the dynamics in the next two-four years of a person’s college life.
“Another problem that students tend to have is the lack of time and management skills,” said Vandiver.
Students often take on heavy course loads along with leadership roles in several organizations not realizing those organizations require time and effort as well.
“When a student can manage their time effectively, the amount of stress decreases when they learn how to organize,” said Vandiver.
“I am not part of any organizations or social groups because of the added stress and the risk of my grades being compromised,” said Twilley. “Some people may think because I am a studio art major, my classes should be easy, but my teacher expects us to work twice as many hours outside of class as we do in class, and the classes are two hours and thirty minutes long.”
“Keeping structure in my day and staying on a routine lessens the stress,” said Twilley.
Many students can identify with Twilley, even if they are not art majors. Some classes require research papers, presentations and senior portfolios , as well as, not to forget mid-terms and finals that sometimes require pulling all-nighters.
The effects of constant stress include: headaches, tension headaches, lack of sleep, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, weight gain and neck and shoulder pain.
“While these may not seem harmful, they can become harmful when it leads to insomnia and eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia, stomach ulcers, dependence upon sleep medication and TMJ (Temporomandibular Disorders), which causes a person to grit their teeth and have to pay the dentist for a jaw alignment,” said Goldiver.
According to Brian Seaward in his latest book, the “Essentials of Managing Stress”, 70 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders.
With all of the stress college students face on a daily basis and the harmful effects stress has on the body, MUW has made it possible for students to lessen their stress and live a healthier life by providing a yoga class for credit and as a recreational fitness class for the public.
Studies have found that yoga is a great preventative medicine, and that it benefits people with different health conditions, increases emotional stability, mental clarity and a greater well- being.
Twilley enrolled in the yoga class offered this semester because she needed a healthy alternative to relieve her stress.
“Having a yoga class built into my hectic schedule helps me relax, and it also gives me something to look forward to every Tuesday and Thursday morning,” said Twilley.
Wellness coordinator and yoga instructor Marion McEwen has been teaching students how to relax for more than 12 years.
“I believe every student should be required to take the class because it helps students study better and increases brain capabilities,” said McEwen.
Twilley also agrees with this statement because she recommends all of her friends to take the class at least one time before they graduate. She says it is nice to take a break and focus on yourself, rather than all the homework that is due.
“Regular exercise and fitness helps students stay in control of their stress rather than allowing their stress to take control of them,” said Vandiver. “Yoga and Pilates classes are great assets for students.”
“When students come to class they learn not only how to relax the body, they also learn how to deal with stressful situations by learning how to breathe deeply through uncomfortable or challenging positions,” said McEwen. “This technique trains them to breathe and calm the body when they are faced with uncomfortable situations in life.”
Both Vandiver and McEwen suggest that students make yoga a part of their daily routine for the rest of their lives. The more they teach those classes to the students, the more it becomes a part of their personal lifestyles, as well.
Yoga has positive long- term effects on the body and the mind. Twilley is a testament to all college students that incorporating a yoga class into their daily routines can help them effectively deal with stress, whether they are taking a light or heavy course load, a part of many organizations on campus or none.