Causes to college student stress and helpful resources at the U

Story and photos by: Cheyenne Peterson

SALT LAKE CITY — You must get straight A’s. You must work to pay off your student debt. You must land a good, six-figure job. And you must do this, all while rubbing your stomach and patting your head. It seems like college these days is the recipe for a physically and mentally drained college student.

Many students attend the University of Utah determined to accomplish and do great things. But when stressors appear, life can become overwhelming. In many ways it can be very harmful to a students’ success.

Taylor Dewey, a junior at the University of Utah, has experienced the chasm that is college stress. It occurred while traveling home from a three-month summer study abroad in Bali, Indonesia. Dewey’s friends and family warned her that she would experience reverse culture shock, what they believed to be worse than culture shock. She didn’t really believe it would happen to her, but after just a week to adjust to America at the beginning of her next semester of college, it came. 

“Not only was there a 14-hour time change, but I had different priorities in Bali than I do in America.” Dewey started a new semester believing she would be motivated to succeed, but that was not the case. She soon realized that the opposite was true. Dewey believes that her body didn’t have enough time to adjust to the stress of culture shock. She isolated herself from her family and friends, which was followed by depression.

“It (depression) really just came out and I realized that I needed help when I got back from Bali. The stress from adjusting back to America, triggered me into a depressive state, says Dewey. “I lowered my school work motivation and started failing my classes. That wasn’t normal for me. I even lost motivation to even eat, shower, and other things like that. It really was not good.”

Trevor James, a senior at the University of Utah, also experienced abnormal stress while working two jobs and studying biomedical engineering.  “I was doing research and I was also working at the Cheesecake Factory, about 20 hours a week, so I never really had a day off,” he says. “I had to work the weekends and I would get off really late, then I would have to work at the research lab before school, really early.”

The pattern was unhealthy and unsustainable. “I wasn’t getting enough time for sleep and when I was getting ready for sleep, I would get really stressed about how I was going to have to get up in a few hours.” The stress left him unable to sleep. Even when he found the time for five or six hours of planned sleep, he says, “I would only end up falling asleep for three or four of them.”

James did this for a few months until he realized he was doing too much. James knew he would be better off if he didn’t do so much and decided to quit his job at the Cheesecake Factory. 


Salt Lake City, Utah. The Health Wellness Center (HWC) located in the University of Utah’s Student Life Center.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 85 percent of the 20 million American college students, have been overwhelmed with how much work load they have and 30 percent of these college students have had stress effect their school work.

Located at the University of Utah Student Life Center, the Center for Student Wellness, offers a variety of services for students including individual well sessions. Health educator Jenna Templeton explains what happens during a individual wellness session.

“This is a one-on-one conversation with a coach that we assign to you, about any determined goals that you would like to achieve, whether it is on healthy behaviors to how to manage stress.” Templeton suggests that students overwhelmed with stress take these into consideration; do something you enjoy everyday, set limits and say no to requests that you don’t have time for or would be too stressful. Accept that you can’t control the uncontrollable, and learn and practice relaxation techniques.

The Center for Student Wellness is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Appointments with a wellness coach can be scheduled via email at or phone (801) 581-7776. Wellness coaches will need time to prepare for your appointment, so walk in appointments are not recommended.

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Contact information for the University of Utah Counseling Center.

Another great resource is the University Counseling Center, where you can just walk in for an appointment or call (801) 581-6826. Trevor James, after his stress overload, attended the University’s Counseling Center and says the it gave him a moment to talk to someone and take a moment to “just breathe.”

When stress becomes routine over long periods of time,  it can begin to manifest itself physically. Stress can make existing problems worse like depression, cardiovascular risk, and diabetes — and when you’re sick it will be harder to recover.