Spring Semester Stressors You Can Expect

Spring ushers in longer days and warmer weather. But for college and nursing students, it also comes with stressors that can challenge your academic success and personal health. This article will give you a “heads up” on what stressors to expect as you wrap up the college year. Nursing Students General Students Article


Spring Semester Stressors You Can Expect

According to the 2018 National College Health Assessment, only 1.6 percent of college students felt no stress over the past 12 months. Whether you are a pre-nursing student, enrolled in a nursing program or working towards a different degree, your coursework has probably left you with a healthy dose of anxiety. Stress is uncomfortable, but it is also a normal and necessary part of life that helps us to meet the challenges we face.

When Stress Becomes Unhealthy

We have all experienced stress at different times in our life. Most stress is acute (I.e. preparing for exams) and does not lead to serious health problems. In fact, it can give you the motivation needed to study and prepare. However, stress becomes "chronic" when it occurs over a long period of time. Chronic stress is often caused by our response to situations that are beyond our control. It is the most dangerous type of stress and is characterized by feelings of hopelessness with no end in sight. The toll chronic stress takes on our bodies can lead to permanent health problems, such as heart disease, depression and suicide.

Types of Student Stress

Dr. Karl Albrecht, a social activist and management consultant, categorized stress in four types- time, anticipatory, situational or encounter stress Let's take a look at the characteristics of each type.

Time Stress

Time stress often occurs when we worry about not having enough time to complete all of our tasks. As a student, you may worry about meeting an assignment deadline or juggling the time demands of your home life.

Anticipatory Stress

This type of stress occurs when you feel uncertain about what is to come. You may be nervous about starting nursing clinicals or an upcoming presentation.

Situational Stress

Let's say you come down with the flu and now have 2 exams to make-up. Situation stress occurs when you are in an upsetting situation that you cannot control. Other examples include an unexpected family emergency or "going blank" when giving a presentation.

Encounter Stress

College students sometimes feel stress about seeing certain people, either alone or in a group. You may have a clinical instructor that is intimidating and spending time with this person causes anxiety. Or, it could be that you dread seeing a certain person in one of your classes.

Spring Semester Stressors to Expect

Your time as a student will be more productive and enjoyable if you are able to manage your stress levels. Although the experience of stress is highly individualized, there are some common Spring semester stressors that weigh down college students.

January-February Stressors

  • Adjusting to new coursework and unfamiliar faculty
  • Loss may be experienced if classmates do not return
  • Flu season, colds and inclement weather may interfere with class schedules and academic performance
  • The "newness" of college has worn off for first-year students
  • Shorter days and less time outdoors contribute to higher rates of seasonal depression
  • Senior nursing students must adjust to their preceptor and add preceptor hours to the semester's already packed schedule.

March Stressors

  • Academic pressure may be mounting due to procrastination in coursework and/or lack of time.
  • Mid-term exams and term paper deadlines may all be due
  • Tensions among classmates may begin to rise as individual stress levels increase.
  • Increase in socializing and potential increase in drug or alcohol use may lead to time management issues.
  • Mid-term grades are issued

April Stressors

  • Spring fever with increased socialization and activity
  • Academic pressure persists as exams and assignments are piling up
  • High time for colds, allergies and possible stress-related illnesses
  • Time management is challenged with the activity that comes with the Spring months
  • Anticipation of taking the NCLEX exam for senior nursing students
  • Plans being made for childcare for Summer semester
  • Job hunting for Summer work.

May Stressors

  • Final exams and end-of-semester pressure
  • Summer plans (housing, work, travel, home responsibilities) need to be worked out
  • Sadness over leaving friends
  • Graduating students working to meet final program requirements and may be beginning job interviews

You can access a complete list of college life stressors here.

Spring Flight or Fight

It's often hard to recognize when our bodies are responding to accumulated stress, especially in the thick of coursework. It takes a toll on the body when episodes of upset stomach, increased heart rate and cold sweats occur frequently over a period of time, Effects of long-term stress may lead to hypertension, migraine headaches or heart disease. Increasing your awareness of sources and types of stress can help you manage the semester's challenges easier.

Stay tuned for a follow-up article on what you can do to lower your stress levels while navigating the demands of college.

What other common Spring stressors have you experienced?

Additional Resource:

Stress in College Students for 2019


J. Adderton MSN has over 20 years experience in clinical leadership, staff development, project management and nursing education.

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