Study finds stress may benefit coping skills

Catherine Marfin

Between grueling academic schedules, busy social lives and romantic relationships, many college students feel they have a lot on their plates. Stress can reach new heights as students face drastic changes and tough decisions during their college years.

While many students feel that stress negatively impacts their lives, a recent study published in psychology journal Emotion revealed that stressing may not be such a bad thing. The study, titled “The Two Definitions of Waiting Well,” showed that those who worry are better prepared for negative outcomes than those who remain relaxed.

A research team, comprised of psychology professors and graduate students from the University of California-Riverside, studied the waiting behaviors of two groups of law students waiting for the results of their bar exam. The team compared those who waited in such a way as to ease their distress during the waiting period and those who waited in such a way as to ease the pain of bad news or enhance the thrill of good news.

The four-month study showed that those who suffered through the waiting periods with high levels of anxiety and stress responded more productively to bad news and more joyfully to good news than their more relaxed peers.

“While small amounts of stress can improve a person’s performance and functionality, larger amounts of stress only serve to decrease these variables,” Katy Redd, assistant director for prevention and outreach at UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center, said. “The important thing is not to focus on the stress but instead learn from disappointment and improve your performance next time.”

Molecular biology sophomore Daniela Marcano said she feels that stress is beneficial toward her academic performance. 

“I stress on a daily basis, but I don’t think it’s such a bad thing,” Marcano said. “Stress keeps me motivated and is a real driving factor toward my goals.”

Biology freshman Zoe Njemanze said she feels the results of this study are extremely relevant for college students who are facing major life changes.

“I find that my real stress comes from having high expectations or not meeting goals that I have set for myself,” Njemanze said. “Of course people who expect bad things to happen will cope better. People who remain calm and have high or no expectations at all play victim to being let down.”