Stress, Strain and Coping Mechanisms: An Experimental Study of Fresh College Students

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This paper discusses the stress, strain and coping mechanisms among fresh college students. The purpose is to understand stress related problems, and suggest suitable solutions. Simple Random Sampling was assigned to all 120 first year students of a university (Matriculation Center), they were equally divided into experimental and control group. Classes were given only to experimental group on how to cope with academic stress. Hence, their levels of stress were measured twice, before and after the experiment. The findings of this study indicate that there are significant differences between the experimental and the control group in relation to stress, strain and coping mechanisms. Eventually, the experimental group proved to cope with academic stress better than the control group, and they were satisfied with their academic performance during the experimentation. After a period of four years, a follow-up study was performed on both groups in order to inquire into the students' academic results and CGPA at undergraduate level. The results were very encouraging for the experimental group.


Stress is something that all of us experience from time to time but have difficulty defining it. Different ideas were given to explain the word stress. This ranges from simple physiological definition into more interpretative processes. Researchers proposed that the stress response is mediated by covert or overt cognitive appraisal of events, impinging on the individual that interprets same as either threatening or not; and concomitantly assesses the individual's ability to handle the stressor (Ronald & Jason, 1994). This paper is divided into six sections. Following this introduction is the theoretical framework and model. This is followed by the research design, research findings, discussion, and conclusion respectively.


Stress is a term that almost everybody from all walks of life knows and uses, yet understanding and assessing stress is a complex task. It is often loosely used to refer to any situation that evokes negative thoughts and feelings in a person. The same situation is not evocative or stressful for all people, and all people do not experience the same negative thoughts and feelings when stressed (Whitman, 1984).

Many people may not be aware that they are undergoing stress; few recognize that events such as pregnancy, retirement, marriage, death of a close family member, divorce, and writing exams or a number of smaller events, overload the adaptive system of the body, which causes high levels of stress (smith, 1999).

McGrath (1970) defined stress as a substantial imbalance between environmental demand and the response capability of the focal organism. Whereas, Kaplan (1983) defined stress as subject's inability to forestall diminish perception, recall, anticipation, and imagination of disvalued circumstances, those that in reality or fantasy signify great and/or increased distance from desirable (valued) experiential states, and consequently, evoke a need to approximate the valued states.


The person-environment model is useful in understanding stress among students. According to one variation of this model, an individual can appraise stressful events as "challenging" or "threatening" (Lazarus, 1966). When students judge their education as a challenge, stress can bring them a sense of competence and an increased capacity to learn. When education is seen as a threat, however, stress can elicit feelings of helplessness and a foreboding sense of loss.

College life can be very stressful in one way or the other. Generally, we idealize the college experience and remember it as that idyllic time when we had few worries or responsibilities. To students currently attending college, however, the process is often stressful and frustrating. The competition for grades, the need to perform, peer relationships, fear of failure, career choice, and many other aspects of the college environments are real life challenges that manifest as mental stress. …