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Study: Stress can have a major effect on grades

As students prepare to move on to campus, they will inevitably encounter stress from tests, deadlines and adapting to a new lifestyle.

But that doesn’t mean stress has to be overwhelming, according to one expert.

“We all respond to stressful situations in different ways. Some ways are healthy and lead to stress resolution, while other ways of dealing with stress are harmful and lead to stress overload,” said University of South Carolina professor Susan Wood, who is conducting research into stress. “This overload is what harms our body and our mind.”

Students are prone to say stress is more likely to negatively affect their grades than drinking, physical sickness, homesickness or even loss of sleep, according to a 2017 study from the American College Health Association. For students who seek counseling, stress is one of the leading concerns they say they have, behind only anxiety, depression and relationship problems, according to a 2017 report from Penn State’s Center for Collegiate Mental Health.

At USC, more than one in four students said stress has negatively affected their academic performance in the past year, according to statistics on USC’s website.

Researchers believe stress prevents the brain from accessing stored memories, making it harder to remember answers even if you know them, Wood said.

To get rid of stress caused by big exams, Tanner Reagle, a junior honors student majoring in economics and geography, said he usually works out or plays soccer.

“It never really affects my grade if I’m stressed,” Reagle said.

But class is far from the only source of stress on campus, said Annie Hildrup, a graduate student who also received her undergraduate degree at USC. She cautions against “overcommitting” to classes or extracurricular activities and advises students to take advantage of group exercise classes at the Strom Thurmond Center.

“Exercise is super important – to just get away from campus for an hour and not have to think about it,” Hildrup said.

USC offers students suffering from excessive stress one-on-one counseling, and guided meditation and mindfulness courses. There are daily meditation classes around lunchtime that last 20 minutes.

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