Student Stress on Campus

Psychological health is important throughout people’s lives, whether they consider it often or not. Even the smallest changes to one’s environment can mean changes in brain and behavior. This is something to consider when thinking about the real mental effects of the current pandemic and its long-term changes in brain chemistry thereafter.

When the human brain is experiencing stress, there are quite a few different things that happen. Stress triggers cortisol to be released, which, on its own, is not the worst thing in the world. Cortisol can help regulate blood sugar levels. However, buildup of cortisol can be damaging in the long-term, should someone face chronic stress. High cortisol levels, according to Rebecca Bernstein in her article titled The Mind and Mental Health: How Stress Affects the Brain, can wear down the brain’s proper functioning ability, disrupt synapse regulation and even reduce the overall size of the brain. And that’s not even the worst of it: consistent stress can increase the size of the amygdala, which unfortunately makes the brain more receptive and sensitive to stress. This can force your brain to be in a constant sense of fight-or-flight, even with the most minimal of incidents.

This is especially relevant for students, who already experience a great deal of stress. Student stress is among one of the worst kinds of stress and it presents itself as being more chronic and intense. The pressure of being on a path to success means putting a great deal of focus and energy towards one’s goals. This is an especially difficult time to be an on-campus student, considering the increased concern about COVID-19, whether students realize it or not. Some students don’t wear masks as often as they should, while some wear thin masks that hold no protection for themselves or others. It may seem that this form of stress is too small or insignificant to bear any attention but it is important to consider it now rather than later to avoid the long-term detriments.

I personally would like to believe that there is a positive correlation between the stress experienced and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, because that indicates that there is hope in bouncing back once the country is on its way to being virus-free and freshly packed with added common sense.