The State of Stress

College can be one of the most exciting times in your life, but it’s also becoming known for creating high stress and burnout for students. The numbers don’t lie—the National College Health Assessment found that nearly 87% of college students reported feeling overwhelmed at least once in the past year and another 45% reported feeling “more than average” stress. The trends suggest that stress is becoming a new norm, but it’s never too late for students to learn more about themselves and stress to prevent it from taking over.

What is Stress?

Stress is defined in a myriad of ways. The American Institute of Stress uses this definition to describe mental/emotional stress:

“a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”

The Institute reports that everyone understands, defines, and experiences “stress” differently, making it important to distinguish among the different types. In some cases, you may experience eustress, or what most call “normal stress.” This stress can be helpful for coping with life’s typical challenges, such as transitioning, making tough decisions, and managing conflict. However, acute stress (an immediate physiological reaction to a difficult experience) and chronic stress (the long-term daily exposure to and experience of stress) can contribute to harmful changes in our mind, body, and spirit.

Signs and Symptoms

Though stress has its role in our lives, too much stress can lead to major health consequences, such as chronic headaches and increased risk of heart attacks. Common symptoms of stress include many everyday difficulties that affect your body, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as outlined in this chart by the Mayo Clinic:

On your body

On your mind

On your behavior


Muscle tension or pain

Chest pain


Change in sex drive

Stomach upset

Sleep problems



Lack of motivation or focus

Feeling overwhelmed

Irritability or anger

Sadness or depression

Overeating or undereating

Angry outbursts

Drug or alcohol misuse

Tobacco use

Social withdrawal

Exercising less often

Stress Management Resources

There are ways to help prevent certain stress from becoming a problem at all. By sticking to healthy habits or practices, you can potentially block certain triggers and be proactive about a lifestyle you can handle. Here are some resources to assist you in building a routine that helps you keep stress at bay:

Manage Your Sleep:

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Diary

Build a Self-Care Plan that Speaks to Your Needs:

The Steve Fund - Self-Care for Women of Color

College Students Guide to Stress

The American Psychological Association - Centro de Apoyo

The Steve Fund

SAMHSA for Latinx Communities

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Mental Health Resources for Latinx Communities

Learning to Live with COVID-19

Be Kind to Yourself:

Self-Compassion Worksheets

Contact and Hours of Operation

Address: 1462 Clifton Road, Suite 235, Atlanta, GA 30322
Phone: (404) 727-7450
Fax: (404) 727-2906
Crisis Consultation: Call (404) 727-7450, 8:30-3:30, Monday-Friday
Hours of Operation: 8:30-5:00, Monday-Friday

PLEASE NOTE: If Emory University is closed due to weather or other emergency, then CAPS is also closed. In such circumstances, students will be contacted to reschedule appointments once the university reopens.