Being a student can be tough. With the transition to adult life, making new friends and busy schedules for studying college student stress is common place for most students. Here are top tips on how to reduce it.
We all encounter the stresses of daily life, and college students in particular struggle with the adjustment to busy schedules and deadlines demanded from overwhelming courses and exams. The continuous pressure to achieve quickly during our early years of adulthood, leads to college student stress, anxiety, and mental health challenges.
The first time we leave home and start preparing for adult life, college presents intense pressure to achieve high grades and shape successful careers. Students tend to push themselves to the limit both in their academic performance and their recreational outlets.
Many college students ignore signs of stress and as a result experience a range of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Increased heart rate or blood pressure, headaches, or fatigue, for example, commonly strains our physical states. The “psychological perception of pressure”, on the other hand, influences our emotional reactions to unexpected situations.
Stress among college students can negatively impact academic performance, personal relationships, and overall well-being. However stress can have positive effects if managed properly with these 5 simple tips.
What is Stress:
Stress is your body’s response to uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations and can surface through a range of physical, emotional, or mental symptoms. The situations that lead to stress can be either negative or positive. Yes, even a high exam score can cause stress among college students, piling on the pressure to maintain the high average!
The important thing to remember about stress is that it should only be temporary otherwise it can lead to burnout, or physical and emotional exhaustion. If you find yourself stressed for long periods of time, take some time off and do something to distract from the pressure.
Watch this video for a great depiction of stress management:
Effects of Stress:
Prolonged stress is known to affect a person’s physical and emotional states, as well as behavioral and cognitive functionality. It affects our food and alcohol cravings, sleep patterns, and general relationships with those around us.
Some common signs of stress include:
Aches and pains.
Indigestion or acid reflux symptoms
Increase in or loss of appetite
Muscle tension in neck, face or shoulders
Cold and sweaty palms
Trembling or shaking
Weight gain or loss.
Upset stomach, diarrhea
Causes of Stress:
Significant life events often lead to increased stress levels. Though among college students, the causes are often much more subtle. A heavy workload, public speaking, or long work or study hours, can lead to hostile behavior and tense reactions to unexpected situations.
By understanding the individual causes of stress, students can better prepare themselves for the academic challenges that lay ahead. College students should consider these 5 tips in effort to reduce stress:
1. Time Management:
Instead of focusing on your to-do list each day, focus on the free hour you have before your next class, or the time you can gain from completing a task ahead of schedule.
We often push things off until the last minute under the perception that our busy schedules don’t leave us enough time. However, what you can do to counter this procrastination is to make things bite size, break up tasks into smaller, more manageable sections. Make a designated space for work that isn’t your bed.
Use a planner to block sections of time throughout your day, but make sure to leave time for yourself to socialize and relax.
2. Positive Thinking
What if you actually scored an A on the exam you thought you failed? Just as easily as your mind imagines the worst case scenario, it can be trained to imagine the positive.
When we experience stress, we tend to interpret situations negatively. Pay attention to these reactions and avoid the unexpected by getting an early start to your day.
If you still notice yourself thinking negatively, pause for a second, and try not to engage those thoughts.
Tip: Try listening to music while you study to help calm you and focus you on your work.
Daily or weekly exercise routines will help balance your mental and physical reactions to life’s stresses.
According to a 2015 study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 85% of college students reported feeling overwhelmed at some point in the previous year by everything they had to do; and 41.6% stated anxiety as the most pressing concern among college students.
Regular exercise can mitigate those concerns by promoting better sleep, improving your mood, and boosting your energy. Try 60 minutes of light walking, or 30 minutes of high intensity exercise. Sign up for yoga, join a gym, go climbing.
Keep the routines interesting by combining different variations of cardio with muscle-building throughout the week.
4. Ask for Help
One of the most important lessons you can learn during college is to ask for and accept help. Whether from a friend or a professor, being surrounded by a strong support system will help ease the transition into some of the best years of your life!
Admitting what you don’t know and studying with a friend could be the difference between a 60% and 80% on your next exam. Asking your professor for an extension on your next paper might give you the time you need to write that last page.
If the stress is becoming too much to handle, reach out to your university’s counseling or mental health center. The AADA, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, was created to prevent and treat stress and anxiety through education, practice, and research. They work with the world’s leading experts and provide a range of free services, including webinars, podcasts, and peer-to-peer support.
Remember: Try not to put so much weight on every situation and remind yourself that college is a time for clarification and exploration and should be enjoyed!
5. Manage Your Health
Eating healthy can make a huge impact on alleviating stress and positive thinking. Make sure you avoid alcohol (it only acts as a depressant), avoid energy drinks as the fix will be temporary and will cause you to crash. Instead eat lots of stress busting food such as:
- Green leaf vegetables like Spinach contain folate that produce dopamine a pleasure inducing brain chemical which will help you feel calm
- Protein food likes eggs and meat helps produce serotonin which regulates hunger and feelings of happiness and well-being
- Omega 3 foods such as salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that help counteract the negative effects of stress hormones
- Other foods such as blueberries, seeds, dark chocolate, avocado, nuts, yoghurt and oatmeal also help counter stress
A positive sleep pattern and healthy diet will directly impact your clarity throughout the day. Aim to sleep 8 hours each night, and if you struggle with this, take power naps of 30 minutes to 2 hour intervals, helping to balance your REM cycles.
Wrapping it Up
Yes, college can be a scary and overwhelming time in a person’s life, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. The stress that college students feel can often affect their academic achievements as well as their personal life.
By understanding the symptoms of stress we can learn to detect when the stress is a positive boost and when it is weighing us down. Managing your stress and your health will prepare you for the unknown situations and reward you with an exciting and engaging college experience!