Stress harms immune system

The failing economy is among the number one sources of stress, and stress-related illnesses for many Americans.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), in 2008 there were more people who reported illnesses brought on by stress than in 2007.

The majority of the people said their stress levels had increased within the last year.

The APA reported that of the top stressors 81 percent is linked to financial issues, 80 percent is a result of the economy, 67 percent comes from work and 67 percent from family and health issues.

Students often face the effects of the economy both firsthand and secondhand.
Tuition increases are directly associated with the economy, and having to take on a job to help parents who may have been laid off, can serve as secondhand effects experienced by students.

“My parents have been directly affected by the economy, and as a result I don’t receive as much money from them as I used to. I have to really budget now,” said Laonzvee Crawford, a fourth-year social work student from Orlando.

Allison Lockard, assistant director of clinical programs at Florida A&M University, said students having to deal with tuition increases, and their parents being laid off from their jobs can be stressful.

Lockard said because of the financial crisis that the economy is undergoing, many college students have begun to worry about problems at home, and the possibility of having to find a job to help their families.

Other causes of stress among students can be from academics, lack of sleep, poor diet and exercise. Being involved in too many things at once and the lack of proper time management skills.

“It is important for people to know that it is impossible to tackle everything at once. Doing one task at a time can keep stress levels down,” Lockard said.

Crawford also mentioned that being accepted by peers could also cause stress among students.

“Fitting in on college campuses can also be stressful for students. At a black university there is a lot of emphasis on being fashionable and popular,” Crawford said.

Lockard said that students should find their own ways to reduce stress.

“It is important for students to find their own niche for stress release. Some of the first steps in reducing stress are to focus on the things that they can be changed rather than the things that are beyond our control,” Lockard said. 

Stress can cause serious health problems.

Taurus Jerelds, FAMU health educator, said studies have shown that stress does have a direct effect on health.

“Stress lowers the body’s immune system, making it difficult to fight off colds and infections,” Jerelds said. 

Also other physical issues such as fatigue headaches, skin rashes, anxiety and high blood pressure can occur as a result of stress said Jeralds.

Other stress related illnesses include muscle tension, heart attack, cancer, insomnia, ulcers and rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), stress is the body’s physical, emotional and mental response to change. This change can be negative or positive.

The ACHA states that some stress is beneficial, which is often referred to as “good stress”. This stress can be brought on by adrenaline when trying to meet certain challenges. If the anxiety does not subside after the challenge has been meet, it can become what is called “bad stress”.

“A healthy way of life can be adopted to reduce stress. This healthy lifestyle has to be physical, mental and emotional,” Jerelds said.

FAMU’s counseling services offer counseling sessions free-of-charge to FAMU students, and a number of student-centered support groups.  Students are provided 12 free counseling sessions per semester.

“It is essential for FAMU students to know and take advantage of the on campus resources made available to them,” Lockard said.
Realizing the causes of stress and finding out what can be done to keep stress levels down can be the first step to alleviating stress.