Opinion: Let’s talk about STRESS, baby


Photo credit: Michael Bauer

Cody Downey

After waking up after another late Wednesday night at school, one of the things that I enjoy is getting to see my five-year-old little brother in the morning. By the time I get to see him, we have not seen each other for a little more than 24 hours. One Thursday morning, he tells me that he has a message for me. He grabs a marker and begins to write on the whiteboard that my house has in the hallway. On it, he writes “Welcome back Cody!” With tears starting to grow in my eyes, I ask him a question that I already know the answer to. “Where was I, buddy?” I ask. “School,” he plainly responds.

If I am being completely honest, I never thought I would get this far into college. Obviously, I knew I was going to go to college and eventually graduate, but, I never pictured it being as stressful as it is. We are asked to juggle many things in college, as if we were born with more than two hands. There have been many times when I have jokingly told my friends, “college would be great if it wasn’t for the classes.” Though I say this as a joke, there are some days where I believe it is true.

All across our campus, students are involved in a wide array of activities whether they be school-based or extracurricular. There are students who work full-time or part-time jobs, usually unrelated to what they are working for in college. There are students who take internships during the semester to help boost up their resumes. There are students who get involved with on-campus organizations to help make a difference or continue a passion. From student-athletes to non-traditional students, everyone is doing something besides classwork. The one thing all of us share though is stress.

Though we don’t openly talk about it, a majority of us are going through some form of stress. It seems to have become common practice for many of us to keep all of this bottled up to ourselves until the pipes eventually burst. Whether it be because of believing we don’t need help or that we don’t want to come off as someone who constantly complains, we all tend to go hush on the things that bother us the most. I know numerous people who have had personal breakdowns due to feeling like they have too much on their plate. I have seen people need to leave a room to escape what can be a constraining situation.

I can relate to many of these feelings. I am in my fourth year at Loyola and have many different obligations. Sometimes, I feel that I am subconsciously making up for not doing as much in high school. I am taking six classes this semester, many of which vary in levels of necessary attention. I am a part of the executive boards for both The Maroon and the Commuter Student Association. I work two on-campus jobs: one as a commuter assistant and another as a supervisor for the mass communication and film department equipment room. I try to stay involved with Baptist Collegiate Ministry, an organization which I helped found a chapter of on this campus. Along with this, I still live at home meaning that I have other responsibilities to take care of ranging from helping around the house to spending time with my brother.

All of this is not to say my life is more stressful than anyone else’s life. If anything, I use myself to show you a fraction of what the average college student has to deal with. We have classes, organizations and social lives. Being a college student is more than just showing up for a class and making a grade.

Now, I can already hear the comments of people post-college saying to “get over it” and that “life isn’t easy.” To that point, I believe you are absolutely correct. Life is not a like a Disney movie and not everything will work out in our favor. However, I believe that being open about our stress now is beneficial to our lives after college. If we don’t overcome our stress and the habits that are formed by them, we will transform from unhappy college students to unhappy workers and people.

For myself, I must concede that I would not be the first person to openly speak up about the pressures of what I’m going through. Though I have many friends, family and mentors who are all ears for everything I have to say, that doesn’t make it any easier. I tend to stay to myself on the things that bother me and try to help out others, even if it leads to the detriment and neglect of my own problems. But, I’ll try to say a little bit of it here.

With all of my obligations, I feel like focusing on one thing causes everything else to be left to the dust. If I am worrying about a certain class, the other ones don’t matter. If I have something important to do for one organization, the things I have to do for the others fall to the wayside. This has led to me dropping things that I cared about in the worry that I wouldn’t give it the justice they deserve and losing the love I had in other activities that I decided to hold onto. It is like a bunch of people screaming for you to save them but you only have enough time to save one.

However, I do believe that there are ways that students across campus can help solve this problem. Obviously, we need to start having a dialogue with one another about what we are going through. But, it is more than that. We have to make sure we are mindful of the stresses that people go through. For every student that gets to sleep through a class, there is another student who has to wake up early to get a parking spot to arrive to class on time. For every student that doesn’t have to worry about affording going to college, there is another who doesn’t have or receive the same financial support and has to get a job. For every student that slacks off and intentionally misses class, there is another who spends nights studying losing out on sleep.

We also can’t play the game of Who Has the Most Stress. We are all going through it. Everyone’s stress is relevant and should be listened to. You may think it is nothing to worry about or that it is stupid, but what that person doesn’t need is someone minimizing their problems when all they really want and need is to be heard by someone who cares.

Finally, we need to be willing to seek outside help. It is very easy to open up to a longtime friend or family member. However, unless that person is a trained psychiatrist, they can’t give you exactly what you need. Different people may find it in different places. Some people may need to go to a church while others may need to go to a counseling center. Whatever you may need, these resources are on campus for us to use to help better ourselves.

Before I end this, I want to admit that there were many times in the writing of this opinion piece that I thought about changing the topic or not writing it at all. Whenever someone writes something that is real and honest, people tend to think the writer is depressed. I can thankfully say I am not. However, I’m sure someone reading may be. This person may be too afraid to tell anyone what they are going through or seek help. If we start to be more open about what we are going through, this person won’t have to feel ashamed that they have things going on. And if that’s what it takes, I am willing to be the start.