As finals approach, stress levels for students can begin to rise significantly. Students may experience stress at different times and for different reasons throughout the year, as they balance coursework, social lives, jobs and other responsibilities.
Being able to recognize significant changes in behavior or appearance is the first step to supporting students who may be experiencing high levels of stress.
Recognizing signs of stress in students
When stress reaches a level where students aren’t able to meet obligations, they can become irritable, appear overly tired and fail to meet deadlines. Other signs can include:
- Changes in academic performance or class attendance
- Changes to hygiene and overall appearance
- Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses
- Depressed or lethargic mood
- Social withdrawal
- Falling asleep in class
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
How you can help
Students may become overwhelmed by stress for weeks, and this can create a barrier when it comes to talking about their stress, especially if they are afraid of failing a class. Reminding students that there are people they can talk to—a faculty or staff member, or someone in Counseling and Psychiatric Services—can be helpful.
Encourage students to use office hours and ask questions or seek support before stress becomes unmanageable. Staff with student-employees could consider allowing student-employees to adjust their work schedule leading up to finals so they can attend office hours or get in an extra study session.
If there’s a noticeable concern for a student, inquiring or sending a message that there are solutions can help a student feel supported and that they have an ally in managing their stress.
Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers individual counseling and a variety of free workshops and groups for students around stress management. CAPS also offers consultation services for staff and faculty who would like advice on how to best support a student.
All campus community members can also use SilverCloud Health to build stress management skills. SilverCloud is an online tool that provides personalized programs to help build skills around stress management, anxiety and depression.
When stress becomes too much to manage, students might begin to show signs of crisis. Signs of crisis include aggression, written or verbal threats to themselves or others, suicidal comments, extreme anxiety resulting in panic attacks and/or an inability to communicate. If a student is exhibiting signs of crisis, faculty and staff should contact Student Support and Case Management (SSCM).
If a student’s stress is trauma-related or based on a traumatic event, faculty and staff can refer the student to the Office of Victim Assistance for support.