Categorized | Sex & Health

School Stress and Your Relationship

By Erica Turner

Finals week is quickly approaching, which means times of high stress are on the horizon.  Along with the struggles of exams, papers, and presentations, external pressures from significant others seem to play a significant role in anxiety.

Communication junior Travis Richards said, ”I feel like exam week puts undue stress on relationships because everyone has such high expectations for their performance that they put all other aspects of life on the back burner including, but not limited to, relationships.”

Obviously finals are a time of high stress, which affects all individuals differently.  When we encounter a stressor, a multitude of things can go on psychologically that effect our behavior, some more governing than others.  Personally, I obsess about the situation and let it dominate my mind until it is resolved.

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“I get sassy.  I isolate myself and let the little things bother me.  I also procrastinate because I have anxiety about starting all of the work I need to finish,” said Eli Broad business junior Emily Kmiec.

Procrastination is a strategy that is beyond familiar on college campuses.  However, procrastination enhances stress by causing your work to pile up and making you feel overwhelmed.

James Madison junior Shannon Conaway has a more effective method that will help to reduce stress.

“I compartmentalize, so I take one thing at a time and divide and conquer,” she said.

This strategy is helpful to avoid becoming lost in your work.  Make a list of all you have to do and then go through and complete each task in its entirety.

Special education junior Lexi Justice said her nervousness bleeds into her personal life.

“I can’t stop thinking about whatever is bothering me, and then I begin to worry about everything,” she said.  Like Justice, when many people are stressed, it overflows into their personal lives often causing unnecessary problems.

These avoidable problems can create unneeded tension in students’ lives outside of the classroom.  But how can these stressors be managed and their effects minimized?

Stress leads to irritability causing us to lash out more at others and behave in ways that wouldn’t normally.  When we do act out, those people often attribute our behavior to our rude character instead of our pressing situation.

“The biggest thing is the fundamental attribution error, [which is] attributing things to internal causes instead of external ones,” interpersonal communications professor Kelly Morrison said.

To avoid the fundamental attribution error, look at the circumstances as a whole and determine if you could be making misattributions that could negatively impact your situation, she said.

For Eli Broad business junior Emily Kmiec, the stress of her partner rubs off on to her causing additional unnecessary anxiety.

“It makes me stressed, and I want to help because it feels terrible to be stressed because there’s nothing you can do,” she said.

Personally, I fall victim to what author of The 14 Day Stress Cure Morton Orman, calls ‘Kicking-your-seeing-eye-dog.’

Morton says, “[this is a] pattern whereby you try to change or mold your partner into someone who thinks, feels, and acts just like you do.”

However, trying to change your partner or having unrealistic expectations is not something that is going to benefit your relationship in the long run.

For Justice, running is her stress reliever.

Morrison suggests managing stress by getting more sleep and participating in either yoga or meditation.  She says these hobbies can provide the quiet time you need to handle your situation, without the risk of injury.

Morrison points out that so rarely with all of the various technologies are we separated from the stressors of our lives.  With iPhones, Blackberrys, e-mail and other forms of instant communication, we are constantly connected with work and school with no downtime in-between.

For Kmiec, relying on her friendships to manage her stress is key.

“Confiding in my friends helps to manage my stress by hearing the opinions of the people who are important in my life,” she said.

Talking with friends about stress is a technique Morrison defines as self-disclosure.

“Self-disclosure tends to relieve stress and facilitate mental health, so talking to someone is typically a good idea.  This could be a good friend, a parent, partner, or certainly talking to someone at counseling services on campus,” Morrison said.

Communication junior Travis Richards said, “I divert my stress away from my girlfriend and confide in outside sources in order to avoid putting unnecessary stress on the relationship.”

Shannon Conaway submerges herself in her work in order to ease the anxiety associated with stress, which gives her less time to devote to her partner.

Conaway says, “When I’m stressed, I have less time [for my boyfriend] because I’m too busy with homework.”

However, limiting face-to-face contact with your significant other could be counterproductive because of the insufficient emotional reactions of interacting by the means of technology.

“When you’re online, you’re less likely to empathize because of online empathy deficits,” Morrison says. When you are unable to see the reactions of your behaviors, you’re more likely to act in destructive ways.

By cutting your partner out, you are also losing a valuable support system that can help you through your stressful experience.

So, during this time of approaching angst, try to take Kelly Morrison’s advice by being open-minded and understanding of your partner and look for relaxing alternative outlets to channel your stress.  It could save you relationship, or at the very least help you to avoid a few miscommunications.

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