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Why stress happens and how to manage it
Stress is a natural reaction to specific demands and events, but ongoing stress can affect a person’s health and wellbeing. Tips for managing stress include exercise, setting priorities, counseling, and more.
These demands can come from work, relationships, financial pressures, and other situations, but anything that poses a real or perceived challenge or threat to a person’s well-being can cause stress.
Stress can be a motivator, and it can even be essential to survival. The body’s fight-or-flight mechanism tells a person when and how to respond to danger. However, when the body becomes triggered too easily, or there are too many stressors at one time, it can undermine a person’s mental and physical health and become harmful.
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s natural defense against predators and danger. It causes the body to flood with hormones that prepare its systems to evade or confront danger. People commonly refer to this as the fight-or-flight mechanism.
When humans face a challenge or threat, they have a partly physical response. The body activates resources that help people either stay and confront the challenge or get to safety as fast as possible.
The body produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These trigger the following physical reactions:
- increased blood pressure
- heightened muscle preparedness
These factors all improve a person’s ability to respond to a potentially hazardous or challenging situation. Norepinephrine and epinephrine also cause a faster heart rate.
Environmental factors that trigger this reaction are called stressors. Examples include noises, aggressive behavior, a speeding car, scary moments in movies, or even going out on a first date. Feelings of stress tend to increase in tandem with the number of stressors.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA)’s annual stress survey in 2018, average stress levels in the United States were 4.9 on a scale from 1 to 10. The survey found that the most common stressors were employment and money .
Mental health resources
Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.
Stress slows down some normal bodily functions, such as those that the digestive and immune systems perform. The body can then concentrate its resources on breathing, blood flow, alertness, and the preparation of the muscles for sudden use.
The body changes in the following ways during a stress reaction:
- blood pressure and pulse rise
- breathing speeds up
- digestive system slows down
- immune activity decreases
- muscles become more tense
- sleepiness decreases due to a heightened state of alertness
How a person reacts to a difficult situation will determine the effects of stress on overall health. Some people can experience several stressors in a row or at once without this leading a severe stress reaction. Others may have a stronger response to a single stressor.
An individual who feels as though they do not have enough resources to cope will probably have a stronger reaction that could trigger health problems. Stressors affect individuals in different ways.
Some experiences that people generally consider to be positive can lead to stress, such as having a baby, going on vacation, moving to a better home, and getting a promotion at work.
The reason for this is that they typically involve a significant change, extra effort, new responsibilities, and a need for adaptation. They also often require a person to take steps into the unknown.
A person may look forward to an increased salary following a promotion, for example, but wonder whether they can handle the extra responsibilities.
A persistently negative response to challenges can have an adverse effect on health and happiness.
For example, a 2018 review of studies found associations between work-related stress and coronary heart disease. Despite this, the authors could not confirm the exact mechanisms through which stress causes coronary heart disease.
Other literature has shown that people who perceive stress as having a negative effect on their health may be at higher risk for coronary heart disease than those who do not.
However, being more alert to the effects of stress may help a person manage it more effectively and cope better.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recognize two types of stress: acute and chronic. These require different levels of management.
The NIMH also identify three examples of types of stressor:
- routine stress, such as childcare, homework, or financial responsibilities
- sudden, disruptive changes, such as a family bereavement or finding out about a job loss
- traumatic stress, which can occur due to extreme trauma as a result of a severe accident, an assault, an environmental disaster, or war
This type of stress is short-term and usually the more common form of stress. Acute stress often develops when people consider the pressures of events that have recently occurred or face upcoming challenges in the near future.
For example, a person may feel stressed about a recent argument or an upcoming deadline. However, the stress will reduce or disappear once a person resolves the argument or meets the deadline.
Acute stressors are often new and tend to have a clear and immediate solution. Even with the more difficult challenges that people face, there are possible ways to get out of the situation.
Acute stress does not cause the same amount of damage as long-term, chronic stress. Short-term effects include tension headaches and an upset stomach , as well as a moderate amount of distress.
However, repeated instances of acute stress over an extended period can become chronic and harmful.
This type of stress develops over a long period and is more harmful.
Ongoing poverty, a dysfunctional family, or an unhappy marriage are examples of situations that can cause chronic stress. It occurs when a person can see no way to avoid their stressors and stops seeking solutions. A traumatic experience early in life may also contribute to chronic stress.
Chronic stress makes it difficult for the body to return to a normal level of stress hormone activity, which can contribute to problems in the following systems :
A constant state of stress can also increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) , can develop when stress becomes chronic.
Chronic stress can continue unnoticed, as people can become used to feeling agitated and hopeless. It can become part of an individual’s personality, making them constantly prone to the effects of stress regardless of the scenarios that they encounter.
People with chronic stress are at risk of having a final breakdown that can lead to suicide, violent actions, a heart attack , or stroke .
People react differently to stressful situations. What is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another, and almost any event can potentially cause stress. For some people, just thinking about a trigger or several smaller triggers can cause stress.
There is no identifiable reason why one person may feel less stressed than another when facing the same stressor. Mental health conditions, such as depression , or a building sense of frustration, injustice, and anxiety can make some people feel stressed more easily than others.
Previous experiences may affect how a person reacts to stressors.
Common major life events that can trigger stress include:
- job issues or retirement
- lack of time or money
- family problems
- moving home
- relationships, marriage, and divorce
Other commonly reported causes of stress are:
- abortion or pregnancy loss
- driving in heavy traffic or fear of an accident
- fear of crime or problems with neighbors
- pregnancy and becoming a parent
- excessive noise, overcrowding, and pollution
- uncertainty or waiting for an important outcome
Some people experience ongoing stress after a traumatic event, such as an accident or some kind of abuse. Doctors will diagnose this as PTSD.
Those who work in stressful jobs, such as the military or the emergency services, will have a debriefing session following a major incident, and occupational healthcare services will monitor them for PTSD.
Symptoms and complications
The physical effects of stress can include:
- pain in the back or chest
- cramps or muscle spasms
- nervous twitches
- pins and needles sensations
A 2012 study found that the stressors that parents experience, such as financial troubles or managing a single-parent household, may also lead to obesity in their children.
Emotional reactions can include:
- concentration issues
- a feeling of insecurity
- nail biting
Stress-associated behaviors include :
- food cravings and eating too much or too little
- sudden angry outbursts
- drug and alcohol misuse
- higher tobacco consumption
- social withdrawal
- frequent crying
- relationship problems
If stress becomes chronic, it can lead to several complications, including
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- lower immunity against diseases
- muscular aches
- sleeping difficulties
- stomach upset
- erectile dysfunction (impotence) and loss of libido
A doctor will typically diagnose stress by asking an individual about their symptoms and life events.
Diagnosing stress can be challenging because it depends on many factors. Doctors have used questionnaires, biochemical measures, and physiological techniques to identify stress. However, these may not be objective or effective.
The most direct way to diagnose stress and its effects on a person is through a comprehensive, stress-oriented, face-to-face interview.
Treatment includes self-help and, when an underlying condition is causing stress, certain medications.
Therapies that may help a person relax include aromatherapy and reflexology.
Some insurance providers cover this type of treatment. However, it is important for people to check coverage with their provider before pursuing this treatment. Knowing the details about a potential treatment can help prevent it from adding to any ongoing stress.
Doctors will not usually prescribe medications for coping with stress, unless they are treating an underlying illness, such as depression or an anxiety disorder.
In such cases, they may prescribe an antidepressant . However, there is a risk that the medication will only mask the stress, rather than help the person deal with it. Antidepressants can also have adverse effects, and they may worsen some complications of stress, such as low libido .
Developing coping strategies before stress becomes chronic or severe can help an individual manage new situations and maintain their physical and mental health.
People who are already experiencing overwhelming stress should seek medical assistance.
People may find that the following lifestyle measures can help them manage or prevent stress-induced feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Exercise: A 2018 systematic review of animal studies found that exercise can reduce memory impairment in subjects with stress, although studies on humans are necessary to confirm this.
- Reducing the intake of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine: These substances will not help prevent stress, and they can make it worse.
- Nutrition: A healthful, balanced diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables can help maintain the immune system at times of stress. A poor diet can lead to ill health and additional stress.
- Priority management: It may help to spend a little time organizing a daily to-do list and focusing on urgent or time sensitive tasks. People can then focus on what they have completed or accomplished for the day, rather than on the tasks they have yet to complete.
- Time: People should set aside some time to organize their schedules, relax, and pursue their own interests.
- Breathing and relaxation: Meditation, massage, and yoga can help. Breathing and relaxation techniques can slow down the heart rate and promote relaxation. Deep breathing is also a central part of mindfulness meditation.
- Talking: Sharing feelings and concerns with family, friends, and work colleagues may help a person “let off steam” and reduce feelings of isolation. Other people may be able to suggest unexpected, workable solutions to the stressor.
- Acknowledging the signs: A person can be so anxious about the problem causing the stress that they do not notice the effects on their body. It is important to be mindful of any changes.
Noticing signs and symptoms is the first step to taking action. People who experience work stress due to long hours may need to “take a step back.” It may be time for them to review their working practices or talk to a supervisor about finding ways to reduce the load.
Most people have an activity that helps them relax, such as reading a book, going for a walk, listening to music, or spending time with a friend, loved one, or pet. Joining a choir or a gym also helps some people relax.
The APA encourage people to develop networks of social support, for example, by talking to neighbors and others in the local community or joining a club, charity, or religious organization.
Those who often feel as though they do not have the time or energy for hobbies should try some enjoyable new activities that make them feel good. People can turn to their support network if they need ideas.
Being part of a group can reduce the risk of stress developing and provide support and practical help when challenging circumstances develop.
People who find that stress is affecting their daily life should seek professional help. A doctor or psychiatric specialist can often help, for example, through stress management training.
Stress management techniques
Stress management can help by:
- removing or changing the source of stress
- altering how a person views a stressful event
- lowering the effects that stress might have on the body
- learning alternative ways of coping
Stress management therapy pursues one or more of these approaches.
People can develop their stress management techniques by using self-help books or online resources. Alternatively, they can attend a stress management course.
A counselor or psychotherapist can connect an individual who has stress with personal development courses or individual and group therapy sessions.
Read the article in Spanish.
Last medically reviewed on March 12, 2020
- Anxiety / Stress
- Psychology / Psychiatry
How we reviewed this article:
- 5 things you should know about stress. (n.d.). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml
- American Psychological Association. (2018). APA Stress in America™ survey: Generation Z stressed about issues in the news but least likely to vote [Press release]. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2018/10/generation-z-stressed
- Cartwright, C., et al. (2016). Long-term antidepressant use: Patient perspectives of benefits and adverse effects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4970636/
- Loprinzi, P. D., & Frith, E. (2019). Protective and therapeutic effects of exercise on stress-induced memory impairment [Abstract]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30203315
- Manage stress: Strengthen your support network. (n.d.). http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/emotional-support.aspx
- Nabi, H., et al. (2013). Increased risk of coronary heart disease among individuals reporting adverse impact of stress on their health: the Whitehall II prospective cohort study. https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/34/34/2697/617400
- Parks, E. P., et al. (2012). Influence of stress in parents on child obesity and related behaviors. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3483892/
- Robinson, L., et al. (2019). Relaxation techniques for stress relief. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/relaxation-techniques-for-stress-relief.htm
- Sara, J. D., et al. (2018). Association between work‐related stress and coronary heart disease: A review of prospective studies through the job strain, effort‐reward balance, and organizational justice models. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6015274/
- Stress effects on the body. (n.d.). http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx
- Student guide to surviving stress and anxiety in college & beyond. https://www.learnpsychology.org/student-stress-anxiety-guide/
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10 Successful students understand their finances
If you’re a new college student you may not yet have money problems or issues—but most college students soon do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a “traditional” college student enrolled in college just after high school or a “nontraditional” student returning to school.
Younger students are likely to confront money issues for several reasons:
- If you are living away from home for the first time, you may have less experience setting and sticking to a budget and handling money in general.
- Because you need more time for studying and other aspects of college life, you may have less time to work and make money.
- Even if you receive financial support from your family, your funds are not unlimited, and you’ll need to learn to live within a budget.
You will have many new expenses including tuition and fees, room and board or housing and food bills, books and supplies, and so on. Nontraditional students who have worked or started a family before attending college may have already learned to manage their money well but usually still confront some financial issues:
- Because you need more time for studying and college, you likely have less time to work and make money.
- You will have many new expenses including tuition and fees, books and supplies, and so on.
- You are more likely to have to juggle a budget that may include a family, mortgage, and other established expenses.
Almost everyone eventually has money issues at college, and they can impact your academic success. Money problems are stressful and can keep you from concentrating on your studies. Spending too much may lead you to work more hours than you might otherwise, giving you less time to study. Or you might take fewer classes and thus spend more years in college than needed. Worse yet, money problems cause many students to drop out of college entirely. But it doesn’t have to be this hard. Like other skills, financial skills can be learned, and they have lifelong value.
This section will help you:
- set financial goals
- consider jobs and making money
- learn how to spend less and manage a budget
- avoid credit card debt
- determine how best to finance your college expenses
Setting your Financial goals and Budget
It’s expensive to go to college. College tuition has risen for decades at virtually all schools, and very few students are fortunate enough to not have to be concerned with this reality. Still, there are things you can do to help control costs and manage your finances while in college. Begin by thinking about your financial goals.
What Are Your Financial Goals?
Whatever it is you plan to do in your future, whether work or other activities, your financial goals in the present should be realistic to enable you to fulfill your plan.
Taking control of your personal finances begins with thinking about your goals and deciding what really matters to you. Here are some things to think about:
- Is it important for you to graduate from college with minimal debt?
- What are your priorities for summers and other “free time”? Working to earn money? Taking nonpaying internships or volunteering to gain experience in your field? Enjoying social activities and time with friends?
- How important is it to you to live in a nice place, or drive a nice car, or wear nice clothes, or eat in nice restaurants? How important in comparison to your educational goals?
There are no easy answers to such questions. Most people would like enough money to have and do what they want, low enough expenses that they don’t have to work too much to stay on budget, and enough financial freedom to choose activities without being swayed by financial concerns. Few college students live in that world, however. Since you will have to make choices, it’s important first to think about what really matters to you—and what you’re willing to sacrifice for a while in order to reach your goals.
Make More or Spend Less?
That often becomes an issue for college students. You begin by setting up a realistic budget and sticking to it. A budget is simply the best way to balance the money that comes in with the money that goes out. For most college students, the only way to increase the “money coming in” side of the budget is to work. Even with financial support from your family, financial aid from the college, your savings from past jobs, and the like, you will still need to work if all your resources do not equal the “money going out” side of the budget. The major theme of this chapter is avoiding debt except when absolutely necessary to finance your education. Why is that so important? Simply because money problems and debt cause more people to drop out of college than any other single factor. This chapter includes discussion of how students can earn money while in college and the benefits of working. But working too much can have a negative impact by taking up time you might need for studying. It’s crucial, therefore, whenever you think about your own financial situation and the need to work, to also think about how much you need to work—and consider whether you would be happier spending less if that meant you could work less and enjoy your college life and studies more. As we’ll see later, students often spend more than they actually need to and are often happier once they learn to spend less.
The College Budget
More people get into financial trouble because they’re spending too much than because they’re making (or receiving) too little.
Here’s a good place to start:
- Having money or not having money doesn’t define who you are. Your real friends will think no less of you if you make your own lunch and eat it between classes or take the bus to campus rather than drive a new car. You are valued more by others for who you are as a person, not for what things you have.
- You don’t have to spend as much as your friends to be one of the group. Some people always have more money than others and spend more. Resist any feeling that your friends who are big spenders are the norm. Don’t feel you have to go along with whatever expensive activities they propose just so you fit in.
- A positive attitude leads to success. Learn to relax and not get stressed out about money. If you need to make changes in how you spend money, view this as an exciting accomplishment, not a depressing fact. Feel good about staying on a budget and being smart about how you spend your money.
- Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Most students have financial problems, and they don’t just go away by waving a magic wand of good intentions. If your budget reveals you don’t have enough money even while working and carefully controlling your spending, you may still need a student loan or larger changes in your lifestyle to get by. That’s OK—there are ways to deal with that. But if you unrealistically set your sights so high about spending less and saving a lot, you may become depressed or discouraged if you don’t meet your goals. Before you can make an effective budget, you need to look at what you’re spending money on now and consider what’s essential and what’s optional.
Essential costs are the big things:
- Room and board or rent/mortgage, utilities, and groceries
- College tuition, fees, textbooks, supplies
- Insurance (health insurance, car insurance, etc.)
- Dependent care if needed
- Essential personal items (some clothing, hygiene items, etc.)
These things are sometimes called fixed costs, but that term can be misleading. If you have the option to move to a less expensive apartment that is smaller or a few blocks farther away, you can partly control that cost, so it’s not really “fixed.” Still, for most people, the real savings come from spending less on optional things. Most people spend by habit, not really thinking about where their money goes or how quickly their spending adds up. If you knew you were spending more than a thousand dollars a year on coffee you buy every day between classes, would that make you think twice? Or another thousand on fast food lunches rather than taking a couple minutes in the morning to make your lunch? When people actually start paying attention to where their money goes, most are shocked to see how the totals grow. If you can save a few thousand dollars a year by cutting back on just the little things, how far would that go to making you feel much better about your finances?
Following are some general principles for learning to spend less.
- Be aware of what you’re spending. Carry a small notebook and write down everything—everything— you spend for a month. You’ll see your habits and be able to make a better budget to take control.
- Look for alternatives. If you buy a lot of bottled water, for example, you may feel healthier than people who drink soft drinks or coffee, but you may be spending hundreds of dollars a year on something that is virtually free! Carry your own refillable water bottle and save the money.
- Plan ahead to avoid impulse spending. If you have a healthy snack in your backpack, it’s much easier to not put a dollar in a vending machine when you’re hungry on the way to class. Make a list before going grocery shopping and stick to it. Shopping without a list usually results in buying all sorts of unneeded (and expensive) things that catch your eye in the store.
- Be smart. Shop around, compare prices, and buy in bulk. Stopping to think a minute before spending is often all it takes.
Managing a Budget
Budgeting involves analyzing your income and expenses so you can see where your money is going and making adjustments when needed to avoid debt. At first budgeting can seem complex or time consuming, but once you’ve gone through the basics, you’ll find it easy and a very valuable tool for controlling your personal finances. Why create and manage a budget? Going to college changes your financial situation. There are many new expenses, and you likely don’t know yet how your spending needs and habits will work out over the long term. Without a budget, it’s just human nature to spend more than you have coming in, as evidenced by the fact that most North Americans today are in debt. Debt is a major reason many students drop out of college. So it’s worth it to go to the trouble to create and manage a budget.
Managing a budget involves three steps:
- Listing all your sources of income on a monthly basis.
- Calculating all your expenditures on a monthly basis.
- Making adjustments in your budget (and lifestyle if needed) to ensure the money isn’t going out faster than it’s coming in.
Balancing Your Budget
Now comes the moment of truth: compare your total monthly incoming with your total monthly outgoing.
How balanced is your budget at this point? Remember that you estimated some of your expenditures. You can’t know for sure until you actually track your expenses for at least a month and have real numbers to work with. What if your spending total is higher than your income total? The first step is to make your budget work on paper. Go back through your expenditure list and see where you can cut. Remember, college students shouldn’t try to live like working professionals. Maybe you are used to a nice haircut every month or two—but maybe you can go to a cheaper place or cut it yourself. There are dozens of ways to spend less, as suggested earlier.
The essential first step is to make your budget balance on paper. Then your job is to live within the budget. It’s normal to have to make adjustments at first. Just be sure to keep the overall budget balanced as you make adjustments. For example, if you find you must spend more for textbooks, you may decide you can spend less on eating out—and subtract the amount from that category that you add to the textbook category. Get in the habit of thinking this way instead of reaching for a credit card when you don’t have enough in your budget for something you want or need. Don’t be surprised if it takes several months to make the budget process work. Be flexible, but stay committed to the process and don’t give up because it feels like to too much work to keep track of your money. Without a budget, you may have difficulty reaching your larger goal: taking control of your life while in college.
What If Your Budget Doesn’t Work?
Your budget may be unbalanced by a small amount that you can correct by reducing spending, or it may have a serious imbalance. If your best efforts fail to cut your expenditures to match your income, you may have a more serious problem, unless you plan in advance to manage this with student loans or other funds. First, think about how this situation occurred. When you decided to go to college, how did you plan to finance it? Were you off in your calculations of what it would cost, or did you just hope for the best? Are you still committed to finding a way to continue in college?
If you are motivated to reach your college goal, good! Now look closely at your budget to determine what’s needed. If you can’t solve the budget shortfall by cutting back on “optional” expenses, then you need more dramatic changes. Are you paying a high rent because your apartment is spacious or near campus? Can you move a little farther away and get by temporarily in a smaller place, if the difference in rent makes a big difference in your overall finances? If you’re spending a lot on your car, can you sell it and get by with public transportation for a year or two? Play with the numbers for such items in your budget and see how you can cut expenses to stay in college without getting deeply in debt.
If you worry you won’t be as happy if you change your lifestyle, remember that money problems are a key source of stress for many college students and that stress affects your happiness as well as how well you do in college. It’s worth the effort to work on your budget and prevent this stress. If all else fails, see financial aid at the college. Don’t wait until you’re in real financial trouble before talking to someone who may be able to offer help.
What If You Get in Financial Trouble?
People often don’t admit to themselves that they have a problem until it becomes unmanageable. We human beings are very good at rationalizing and making excuses to ourselves! Here are some warning signs of sliding into financial trouble: For two or three months in a row, your budget is unbalanced because you’re spending more than you are bringing in. You’ve begun using your savings for routine expenses you should be able to handle with your regular budget. You’ve missed a deadline for a bill or are taking credit card cash advances or overdrawing your checking account. You have a big balance on your credit card and have paid only the required minimum payment for the last two months. You have nothing in the bank in case of an emergency need. You don’t even know how much total debt you have. You’re trying to cut expenses by eliminating something important, such as dropping health insurance or not buying required textbooks.
If you are experiencing any of these warning signs, first acknowledge the problem. It’s not going to solve itself—you need to take active steps before it gets worse and affects your college career. Second, if you just cannot budget your balance, admit that you need help. There’s no shame in that. Start with your college counsellor or the financial aid office; if they can’t help you directly, they can refer you to someone who can. Take your budget and other financial records with you so that they can see what’s really involved. Remember that they’re there to help—their goal is to ensure you succeed in college.
Saving for the Future
If you’re having problems just getting by on your budget, it may seem pointless to even think about saving for the future. Still, if you can possibly put aside some money every month into a savings plan, it’s worth the effort: An emergency or unexpected situation may occur suddenly. Having the savings to cope with it is much less stressful than having to find a loan or run up your credit cards. Saving is a good habit to develop.
Working While in College
Most college students work while in school. Whether you work summers only or part time or full time all year, work can have both benefits and drawbacks. The difference may result as much from the type of job you work as from the number of hours you work.
A Job Can Help or Hurt
In addition to helping pay the bills, a job or internship while in school has other benefits:
- Experience for your résumé
- Contacts for your later job search network
- Employment references for your résumé
Here are some factors to consider as you look for a job:
- What kinds of people will you be interacting with? Other students, professors, researchers? Interacting with others in the world of college can broaden your college experience, help motivate you to study, and help you feel part of a shared experience. You may work with or meet people who in the future can refer you to employers in your field. On the other hand, working in a business far from campus, for example, may offer a steady paycheck but can separate you from the academic community and detract from a positive college experience.
- Is the job flexible enough to meet a college student’s needs? Will you be able to change your work hours during final exam week or when a special project is due? A rigid work schedule may cause difficulty at times when you really need to focus on your classes.
- What will you be able to say about your work in your future résumé? Does it involve any skills—including people skills or financial or managerial responsibilities—that your employer can someday praise you for? Will working this job help you get a different, better job next year? These factors can make a job ideal for college students, but in the real world many students will have to work less than-ideal jobs. Working at a fast food restaurant or overnight shipping company may not seem very glamorous or offer the benefits described previously, but it may be the only job available at present. Don’t despair—things can always change. Make the money you need to get by in college but don’t become complacent and stop looking for more meaningful work. Keep your eyes and ears open for other possibilities. Visit the campus student employment office frequently (or check online) for new postings. Talk to other students. At the same time, even with a dull job, do your best and keep a good attitude. Remember that your boss or supervisor may someday be a work reference who can help (or hurt) your chances of getting a job you really want.
The number of hours college students work per week varies considerably, from five to ten hours a week to full time and everywhere in between. Before deciding how much you need to work, first make a detailed budget as described earlier. Your goal should be to make as much as you need, and hopefully a little more to save, but first you need to know your true need. Remember your goals in college and stay focused on your education. Cut back on your optional spending so that you don’t have to work so many hours that your studies are impacted.
Balancing the Job You Have with Your Ideal Job
A growing percentage of students are working full time when they return to school, and many continue in the same jobs. If you’re in this situation, you know that balancing work and college is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. You’re used to working—but not used to finding time for class and studying at the same time. You likely feel harried and frustrated at times, and you may even start to wonder if you’re cut out for college. The time may come when you start thinking about dropping classes or leaving college altogether. It may be hard to stay motivated. If you start feeling this way, focus on your big goals and don’t let the day-to-day time stresses get you down. As difficult as it may be, try to keep your priorities, and remember that while you face temporary difficulties now, a college degree is forever.
- Acknowledge that sacrifice and compromise may be needed.
- Reduce your expenses, if you can, so you can cut back on the number of hours you work. This may mean temporarily giving up some things you enjoy in order to reach your goals.
- If you cannot cut your expenses and work hours and simply do not have the time to do well in your classes, you may have to cut back on how many classes you take per term. Try everything else first, but know that it’s better to succeed a little at a time than to push too hard and risk not succeeding. If you do have to cut back, keep a positive attitude: you’re still working toward your future ideal. If you ever feel the temptation to quit, see your college counsellor to explore all your options.
Credit cards are such a big issue because they are easy to get, easy to use—and for many people, easy to accumulate debt.
Credit cards do have legitimate purposes:
- In an emergency, you may need funds you cannot obtain otherwise.
- You generally need a credit card for travel, for hotels, and other needs.
- Often it’s less expensive to make significant purchases online, and to do that you usually need a credit card. (Many ATM debit cards also function like a credit card for online purchases.)
- If you are young, responsible use of a credit card is a good way to start building a credit rating—but only if you use the credit card responsibly and always make sufficient payments on time.
Your first goal with a credit card is to understand what you’re getting into and how you are charged. Read the fine print on your monthly statements. You should understand about rate increases and know what happens if you miss a payment, pay less than the minimum, or pay late.
All credit cards come with a limit, the maximum total amount you can charge, but this is not the same as the limit you should set for how you use the card based on your budget. If you bought something that cost $400, for example, would your monthly budget let you pay it off when the bill comes? If it will take you two or three months to have that much available in your budget, are you also including the interest you’ll be paying? What if an unexpected need then arises and you need to charge more? Set your personal use limit by calculating how much your budget allows you to charge. If you are using the card just for convenience, such as to pay for meals or regular purchases, be sure you have enough in those categories in your budget left at the end of the month to make the payment. If tempted to buy a significant item with your credit card, do the calculations in advance.
If your credit card debt is not limited by your age, that balance can surely rise.
Following are tips that will help you avoid slipping into credit card debt:
- Pay with cash when you can. Use your budget as a guide for how much cash to carry with you. A good way is to plan how much you’ll need for a week (lunches, parking meters, snacks or drinks between classes) and start the week with that amount from an ATM. Carrying that exact amount helps you stay informed of how you’re doing on your budget and keeps you from “accidentally” spending too much on a whim.
- When possible, use a debit card instead of a credit card. A debit card is taken just like a credit card in most places, so you can use it instead of cash, but remember that a purchase is subtracted immediately from your account. Don’t risk overdraft fees by using a debit card when you don’t have the balance to back it up.
- Record a debit card purchase in your checkbook register as soon as possible.
- Make it a priority to pay your balance in full every month. If you can’t pay it all, pay as much as you can—and then remember that balance will still be there, so try not to use the card at all during the next month.
- Don’t get cash advances on your credit card. With most cards, you begin paying interest from that moment forward—so there will still be an interest charge even if you pay the bill in full at the end of the month. Cash advance interest rates are often considerably higher than purchase rates.
- Don’t use more than one credit card. Multiple cards make it too easy to misuse them and lose track of your total debt.
- Get and keep receipts for all credit card purchases. Don’t throw them away because you’ll see the charges on your monthly statement.
- Write the amounts down in your spending budget. You also need the receipts in case your monthly statement has an error.
Stop carrying your credit card. If you don’t have enough willpower to avoid spontaneous purchases, be honest with yourself. Don’t carry the card at all—after all, the chances of having an emergency need for it are likely to be very small. Having to go home to get the card also gives you a chance to consider whether you really need whatever it is that you were about to buy.
Identity theft is a serious and growing problem. Identity theft is someone else’s use of your personal information—usually financial information—to make an illegal gain. A criminal who has your credit card number or bank account information may be able to make purchases or transfer funds from your accounts.
Someone with the right information about you, such as your social security number along with birth date and other data, can even pretend to be you and open new credit accounts that you don’t know about—until the bank or collection agency tries to recover amounts from you. Although innocent, you would spend a lot of time and effort dealing with the problem.
Follow these guidelines to prevent identity theft:
- Never put in the trash any document with personal or financial information (e.g., your social insurance number, credit card number). Shred it first.
- Carefully review bank statements, credit card bills, and the like when you receive them. If the balance seems incorrect or you do not recognize charges, contact the bank or credit card company immediately.
- Never give your social insurance number, credit card number, or other sensitive data when requested by telephone or e-mail. Many schemes are used to try to trick people to reveal this information, but legitimate companies do not make such requests.
- Do not use online banking or make online purchases with a credit card using a public computer or an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Your data can be picked up by others lurking within the Wi-Fi signal range.
- Most college students encounter money issues in their academic life. Regardless if they are just out of school, or a “nontraditional” mature student.
- Balancing a budget is a key asset to develop in life. Understand the costs that are involved with college, and have a plan to deal with it.
- You are valued more by others for who you are as a person; not for your bank balance. Acknowledge that sacrifice and compromises might be needed and people will respect you no less for the choice.
A Guide for Successful Students Copyright © 2019 by St. Clair College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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- Addict Health
- v.1(2); Fall 2009
Effect of Addiction to Computer Games on Physical and Mental Health of Female and Male Students of Guidance School in City of Isfahan
* Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran
** School of Education, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran
*** Dentist, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Kerman, Iran
This study aimed to investigate the effects of addiction to computer games on physical and mental health of students.
The study population includes all students in the second year of public guidance schools in the city of Isfahan in the educational year of 2009-2010. The sample size includes 564 students selected by multiple steps stratified sampling. Dependent variables include general health in dimensions of physical health, anxiety and sleeplessness and impaired social functioning. Data were collected using General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) scale and a questionnaire on addiction to computer games. Pearson's correlation coefficient and structural model were used for data analysis.
There was a significant positive correlation between students' computer games addiction and their physical and mental health in dimensions of physical health, anxiety and sleeplessness There was a significant negative relationship between addictions to computer games and impaired social functioning.
The results of this study are in agreement with the findings of other studies around the world. As the results show, addiction to computer games affects various dimensions of health and increases physical problems, anxiety and depression, while decreases social functioning disorder.
Computer games are the most popular entertainments in modern societies and they target a variety of people in different ages. The addiction to the rivalry and excitements of the games make them the most common recreational programs for today's teenagers, so that they do anything to reach a higher level of the game, they immerse in the game so much that they completely separate from their surroundings. Challenging with the obstacles and reaching a higher level in the game, make the players excited and losing the game make them anxious. 1
Computer games started in 1972 with Pang, a computer tennis game, and then developed in hardware and software systems. Improvement of quality and variety of games increasingly spread it in the society especially adolescences. 2 It is believed that computer games like watching TV provides opportunities for visual learning. Especially because these games are more active compared to watching TV, they are considered more effective. 3 Since these games are known as the second entertainment after TV, opponents of these games emphasize on their negative effects such as stimulating anger and violence, costing a lot of money and having negative effects of physical and mental health, which are much higher than the positive effects of the games such as increasing the coordination of eyes and hands. 4 As Klein and Keepers mentioned in their research reports in 1990, students who prefer computer games to other entertainments have more behavioral problems that other students (cited from Patton). 5
Currently in Iran, a great part of students' leisure time out of school is spent on computer games . 6 The reasons for adolescents' attraction to these games include being excited and easily accessible while authorities and families do not have any proper plan for students' leisure time and there is not many options for their entertainments. Playing computer games to some extent can be useful, but long-term playing leads to various physical and mental complications. 7 Long term involvement with these games means the players long term tension, restlessness and worrisome and during the game, physical tensions and real physical stimulations are experiences. By sympathetic nervous system stimulation, this can gradually make this system sensitive and ready for response to limited stimulants, while causes anxiety symptoms in the player. A study by Sherry et al (2001) investigating the reasons for playing video and computer games by adolescents and their game priorities on 535 adolescents in age 15-20 in the West USA found that 68% of adolescents had these games as their weekly entertainment. The reasons for playing these games among boys were excitements and challenges and they insisted to win. Moreover, sport and violent games were more attractive for boys. 8
Development of electronic and computer games are a great threat for youth and adolescents and can lead to psychological disorders and depression in these groups. In previous times, kids were involved playing with other children, but children of today spend most of their time on computer games as soon as they understand and acquainted with them, while these games cannot create any emotional and human relationship. 9
Children's and adolescents attractions to the computer games cause many mental, physical and social problems for them. These effects are stimulating anger and violence, obesity, epilepsy due to games, social isolation, and other physical and mental damages. Many psychologists and mental health professionals have paid attention to the effects of these games. 10
The increasing prevalence of computer games among children and adolescents have made many researchers to determine the effects of these games on players. In Iran, there are few and limited studies on the effects of addiction to computer games on players. Considering the increasing rate of addiction to computer games among Iranian adolescents and youth, the present study was conducted to investigate the effects of addiction to computer games on physical and mental health including physical health, anxiety, and depression and impaired social functioning.
The aim of this descriptive correlation study was to determine the effects of computer games addiction on physical and mental health of male and female students of guidance schools in Isfahan city.
The study population includes all students in the second year of public guidance schools in Isfahan city in the educational year of 2009-2010. The sample size includes 564 students selected by multiple steps stratified sampling method. Data were collected by using General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) scale and a questionnaire on addiction to computer games. To do this research, at first 3 districts (2-4) were selected randomly among five districts of Isfahan Board of Education. From each district, one boy and one girl guidance school was chosen randomly. In total, 600 students were chosen for filling the questionnaires, after obtaining the permission from Isfahan Board of Education. The questionnaires distributed among sample. 564 students filled the questionnaires and returned to the researcher.
The data collection instrument was included the form of GHQ-28 inventory of physical and psychological health measurement. Another tool was Antwan's (2008) questionnaire for addiction to computer. The Cranbach's alpha was reported 0.92 by this researcher, 11 since the validity and reliability of this questionnaire was not assessed for Iran; 30 students were selected as sample for a pilot study and after data analysis, and the reliability was measured 0.76. This questionnaire was based on Lickert scale and scored from 1 to 5. 1was for very little and 5 score was considered for very much.
The GHQ 28 inventory is created by Goldberg (1972) for diagnosing psychological disorders in various centers and environments. The questions are about the psychological condition in past month, including signs such as thought, abnormal emotions and dimensions of behavior that are observable. Therefore, questions emphasize on the situation (here and now). This questionnaire is the most known instrument for screening in psychiatry, and has a significant effect on developing researches. This questionnaire is in forms of 30. 60. 12 and 28 questions. 11
The GHQ-28 which is used in this study was standardized by Palahang 12 (2005) and Yaqubi (2005) 13 in Iran. This questionnaire was used to assess health signs including physical complain, sleep disorder, disorder of social functioning and depression.
The study population included 564 students including 263 girls (46.6%) and 301 boys (53.4%). These 564 students were divided into two groups of 467 students (82.8%) as non-addicts and 97 students who played with computer games with a mean of 3 or higher (17.2%). The mean age of participants was 13 years old.
Based on the findings presented in table 1 , correlation between addiction to computer games and physical complains, anxiety and sleep disorder, disorder in social functioning and depression were significant in level P ≤ 0.05. Therefore, there was a direct relationship between addiction to computer games and physical disorders such as anxiety, sleep disorder and depression. But, there was a positive correlation between addiction to computer games and social dysfunction. In other words, based on coefficient of determination, 4% variance of addiction to computer games is common with physical disorder, 12% with anxiety and sleep disorder, 1% with disorder of social functioning and 6% with depression.
Correlation coefficient between addiction to computer games and health dimensions
Based on the findings presented in table 2 , correlation between addiction to computer games and physical complains, anxiety and sleep disorder, social dysfunction and depression were significant in level P ≤ 0.05. Therefore, there was a direct relationship between addiction to computer games and physical disorder, anxiety, sleep disorder and depression. But, the relationship between addiction to computer games and social dysfunction is reverse. In other words, based on coefficient of determination, 5% variance of addiction to computer games is common with physical disorder, 19% with anxiety and sleep disorder, 2% with disorder of social functioning and 10% with depression.
Correlation coefficient between addiction to computer games and health dimensions in male students
Based on the findings presented in table 3 , correlation between addiction to computer games and physical complains, anxiety and sleep disorder, social dysfunction and depression were significant in level P ≤ 0.05. Therefore, there was a direct relationship between addiction to computer games and physical disorder, anxiety, sleep disorder and depression. But, the relationship between addiction to computer games and disorder of social functioning is reverse. In other words, based on coefficient of determination, 3% variance of addiction to computer games is common with physical disorder, 12% with anxiety and sleep disorder, 0,9% with social dysfunction and 5% with depression.
Correlation coefficient between addiction to computer games and health dimensions of female students
The results in the table 4 show that all relationships between variables 2 x 2 are significant. The effects of health with addiction to games is 0.38 which is significant in level 0.99 and shows the positive effects of addiction to games on general health of students.
Relation between addiction to computer games and health dimensions
Based on the results presented in table 5 , all indices show the suitability of the model.
Suitability indices of variables
Figure 1 and figure 2 show standard coefficient of path analysis and t-chart of path analysis of relationship of health components and addiction to computer games respectively.
Standard coefficient of path analysis for relationship between health components and addiction to computer games
T-chart of path analysis of relationship between health components and addiction to computer games
The results of this study showed that there is a direct relationship between physical health, anxiety and depression with computer games addiction. However, the relationship of addiction to computer games and social dysfunction was significance and inverse. In 1990, Yuma et al conducted an intensive study in 9 cities of Japan about the computer games played by children and adolescents and its relationship with their physical health. The results showed that obese students were more attracted to computer games. In other words, playing more computer games cause adolescents to stay home, which lead to their lack of activity and getting fat. This is considered as a biological problem. 14 In psychological dimension, it seems that computer games have a negative relationship with mental health of adolescents and have a direct effect on their violent behavior, anxiety, depression and isolation of those adolescents who play these games. The effects of computer games on psychological health of people and severity and significance of that depends on factors such as level and intensity of violence in the game, the ability of player in differentiating virtual world and real world, player's ability to inhibit their desires and motivation, the values they are brought up with or living with and also values that are in the context and content of the games. 15 Anxiety was one of possible outcomes of computer games, which is studies by researchers. Studies showed that computer games increases players' heart beats to a level more than their body request. 16 In the present study also, we found a direct significant relationship between addiction to computer games and anxiety.
Payne et al (2000) studied the role of computer games on social isolation, low self-esteem and violence. The results showed no relationship between playing computer games and self-esteem in girls, but there was a negative relationship between the two in boys. Also, the scores of violence had a positive correlation with amount of exposure to computer games. Other results showed that in spite of children's attraction to games, there was no evidence that computer games cause social isolation. 17 Since in computer games, players conform to the characters in the game, in creating the new situations that occur in the game, the theory of participatory modeling and active conditioning can be used in explaining data on violent behaviors and possible rewards they get in response. 18
Azad Fallah et al (2001) in their study investigated the relationship between games and social skills of 258 male students of first grade of high school. The results showed a significant relationship between the game-type and presence of others in the game location with social skills of adolescents. Selecting home as the place of game had a significance negative relationship with social skills and those adolescents who were mostly playing at home, had less social skill (cited from Doran). 7 However, in the present study, there was an inverse relationship between addiction to computer games and social dysfunction. It means that as the addiction to computer games increases, social dysfunction will decrease.
Ahmadi (1998) studied the effects of computer games on adolescents of the city of Isfahan. The aim of his study was to find out if computer games have social effects. The results showed that violence and aggression in students who played these games was higher than those who did not play. Also, social participation of students who were playing computer games was low. 10
The first factor noticed in most studies as well as the present study is the disorder in general health of players. Various studies show that playing too much computer games causes physical damages and increases anxiety and depression in players. Many studies show that most adolescents who are addicted to computer games have high heart beat and blood pressure due to too much excitement and stress. Most of those who involve in these games do not notice the time passing and even forget to eat. It seems that creating a cause and effect relationship between computer games and physical health or more generally speaking, cause and effect relationship between addiction to computer games and mental and physical health is simplification of the subject. There are various causes for correlation between addiction to computer games and physical health, anxiety and depression. First, addiction to computer games can cause disorder in physical health, increase anxiety and depression. Second, it is possible that disorder in physical and mental health cause people to get attracted to computer games. Third way is that both addiction to computer games and disorder in physical and mental health are created due to the effects of other factors.
Considering associations between playing computer games and physical and mental disorders, the negative effects of these games are basically related to the games and their nature. Therefore, some computer games can be constructive, while others can have damaging effects on children's body and mind. Therefore, we should accept anyway that computer games like many other phenomenon of technology age have found their way to our children's and our lives. If we want to ignore them and deprive our children playing them, we make them more eager to access them and if they cannot play games at home, they will go to their friends, if they cannot play there, they will go to Internet cafe and places they can find computer games.
On the other hand, if we want to leave our children on their own in this field, mental, psychological and physical risks threat them. So, parents and authorities in cultural and educational fields should have appropriate plans to provide proper involvement of children in these games and in this regards, we should produce games which are based on our culture. Moreover, it is important to prevent import of damaging and harmful games to the country, which is a responsibility of authorities. Also, serious supervision on children's involvement with computer is needed at home; especially their involvement with computer games and parents should teach their children the proper culture of playing games. In fact, one of main worries about computer games, considering their wide usage among adolescents is that these games may create a more attractive environment compared to school works and interfere with school and educational performance of children. It is obvious that if children spend all their time out of school to computer games and neglects other activities which may be useful from the social viewpoint or for their thinking, it will not be favorable. In addition, the newness of this phenomenon demands lots of curiosities and researches. Investigating the negative effects of computer games on educational achievement is recommended for further studies.
In spite of more than 20 years studies on computer and video games and their outcomes and effects in the world, in Iran where a great portion of population is youth and adolescents and there is a significant prevalence of computer games, there are few studies on this topic, which suggest the need for further studies.
Conflict of interest:
The Authors have no conflict of interest