College Stress and Mindfulness

No doubt about it….graduate school is stressful. The American College Health Association (ACHA) administers a yearly survey to students to collect data about student habits and behaviors and their perceptions about health related topics (ACHA National College Health Assessment, Spring 2015.) The ACHA survey reports on many aspects of student perceptions of stress.

Here are a few not-so-surprising findings…

85.6% of all students who took the survey self reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do within the last twelve months. 

56.9% of all students felt overwhelming anxiety within the last twelve months.

45.1% of students surveyed identified “academics” as being traumatic or hard to handle within the last twelve months. Academics were higher scoring than other items on a list of traumatic or difficult situations students face including finances (33.5%), intimate relationships (30.2%), family problems (27.0%), career related issues (26.4%), other social relationships (25.4%), personal appearance (25.5%) and personal health issues (20.5%).

Overall stress levels were also self-reported ranging from “no stress” to “tremendous stress”. 53.5% of students self reported more than average stress to tremendous stress.

Source: ACHA National College Health Assessment, Spring 2015 Reference Group

In an effort to combat the daily stressors encountered by students, colleges and universities are beginning to explore mindfulness and meditation as a coping strategy for stress reduction and to enhance mood, regulate emotions and improve attention. Mindfulness meditations, yoga, therapy dogs, and exercise are just a few strategies that build resilience and help students to combat the stress of academic life. The goal being to increase the number of self-regulating tools that students can use during college and to develop practices that can be sustained into life after grad school.

0300501350697119904835071458388To learn more about Mindfulness, check out my blog at or mindful

Donald D. Matthews, PsyD



American College Health Association – National College Heath Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2015. Hanover, MD> American College Health Association; 2015. Retrieved from

James, S.D. (2017). Mindfulness Meditation Mindfulness Meditation May Help Students Combat High Levels of Stress, Depression. NBC News. Retrieved from

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