Managing Stress at College

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • You spend years dreaming about the day you can go away to college. You want your independence and are ready to take on the world. You pack up your belongings, load them into your parents car and off you go. You managed to get good grades in high school and you assume you will do the same in college. You are sure you can take care of yourself.


    But the moment your parent’s car is out of sight, reality starts to sink in. You are in college. You, and you alone, are responsible for navigating classes, studying for tests and exams, completing term papers, doing your laundry, managing roommate disagreements and taking care of yourself. The teachers in college are more demanding and less likely to accept your excuses, the work is more difficult than the classes you skated through in high school.

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    It is a lot to handle by yourself. And it can be stressful. Stress has its place. In some ways, stress is good. It motivates you to study for the upcoming exam and work hard to complete the term paper. Stress can make you more alert and focused. But constant stress wears on your health, it makes you tired and zaps your motivation. You just want to escape from the constant demands.


    Managing stress is a part of growing up. Stress doesn’t go away, life is full of stress, your family, your job, your bills. But some people learn to manage stress better than others and let the difficult times roll off their shoulders and embrace challenges. Others find stress weighs heavy on them, causing irritability, insomnia, headaches, indigestion and other health problems.


    The following are some tips for managing stress during college:


    Get plenty of sleep and eat right. Remember when your mother told you to make sure to eat right and not stay up to late before she dropped you at the dormitory? She was right. Eating right and getting enough sleep help to keep stress at bay. When you are hungry and tired, your stress levels can increase.


    Exercise. You might think you don’t have time to exercise because your classes and homework take up too much time. But chances are, you can find at least 30 minutes each day to exercise. Take a walk, go to the gym, swim or join a sports club. Exercise reduces stress levels.


    Manage your time wisely. One of the biggest causes of stress in college is feeling overwhelmed with classes and the work you need to do. Proper time management helps. Spend a few minutes each morning (or the night before) writing a list of tasks you need to complete and prioritize the list. Work on one item at a time (multitasking isn’t usually productive). Once you have finished, move on to the next task. Break large projects into small steps and work your way through the project one step at a time. Schedule time during your day for studying and completing assignments rather than trying to fit it in “when I have time.”


    Avoid procrastination. Putting off completing assignments, writing term papers or studying for a test never helps. You end up feeling stressed as the deadline approaches and you have tons of work left to do. Instead, break the assignment (or studying) down to small chunks and spread the work over several days or weeks.


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    Schedule a relaxation break every day. Try different ways to relax, such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness or visualization exercises. Use the method that works best for you and set aside time each day to simply sit and relax.


    Cut back the caffeine. While a cup of coffee might sound like a good way of staying up to study, in the long term caffeine can make you nervous and jittery. Limit your caffeine to one cup of coffee each day.


    Stay away from alcohol and drugs. Some of your college friends will drink, take drugs or smoke for recreation. These often work in the short term but cause more problems in the long-term. They can affect your mood, sleep, eating habits and make you feel worse the next day.


    Take time for fun. College is a lot of work but you should also be having fun. Make sure you plan something you enjoy each day or at least once a week. Spend time with new friends, join clubs and explore the different opportunities your college offers.


    Think optimistically. Those who see the glass as half full are usually happier and better able to manage stress. They see setbacks and difficulties as a temporary situation and look for solutions rather than seeing it as a disaster. Whenever you find yourself falling into “disaster” thinking, try turning it around and remembering it is a temporary situation.


    Surround yourself with positive people. In college, there is an abundance of people, many who share the same interests you do. Be sure you are choosing people who support you and encourage you. When you surround yourself with “the right people” you will feel more content.


    Remember, you might be at college and trying your best to be independent but you are not alone. Most colleges have counseling centers where you can talk to a counselor about how you are feeling. The counselors understand all you are going through and are there to help. 

Published On: September 09, 2014