Perceived Stress!

All individuals perceive stressful events differently; it often depends on personal factors as well as circumstantial factors. University students are not strangers to stress, especially when final exam season rolls around. However, it is possible that some students perceive stressful situations to be more stressful than they actually are, and in turn make the situation worse. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was developed by Cohen et al. and is a measure of the degree that an event in an individual’s life is judged as stressful. Items are aimed at testing how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded individuals find their lives. The PSS comes in a 14-item, 10-item and 4-time format. Roberti et al. (2006) tested the PSS-10 on college students in the United-States and found that it is a reliable and valid self-report measure of perceived stress.

The concept of perceived stress and the PSS bring to light the idea that stressful situations are not always as stressful as one might think. Very often the stress that arises can be (or be turned into) positive stress. Stress is often portrayed as something negative and as something that should be avoided. However, every emotion exists for a reason, so there are in fact some benefits to stress, even for students! Stress is of course essential for the fight-or-flight reaction during situations of danger or threat, but stress can also be used on a more daily basis where lives aren’t at stake. Studies have shown that small, yet significant, stressful events help keep the brain vigilant and interested on the task at hand. Minor amounts of stress can help keep you motivated and efficient when, for example, you are writing an essay or studying for a final exam. These minor stressful feelings are what help you get that assignment done the night before it’s due. Bad stress can be characterized as strain that occurs frequently and at elevated quantities, so it’s important to not let that good stress become overwhelming.

When you start working on a new assignment or start studying for a big exam, don’t let the stress of it all overwhelm you. Don’t perceive the stress as being a bad thing but instead as potential energy to stay focused and awake to help you get the task finished. Avoidance of stress may actually produce boredom and contribute to procrastination, thus some stress can be a good thing. With the upcoming final exam season approaching use the stress to help you ace that exam instead of overpower you and prevent you from being productive in your studies. The PSS refers to stress as when demands exceed an individual’s ability to cope. Things that can help you cope with excess stress are physical activity, extra sleep, small breaks throughout the day, eating healthy foods and consuming less alcohol and caffeine. During the upcoming exam season remember to not get too stressed over the stress that you’re feeling, it’s there to motivate you!

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