Stress is an omnipresent factor for virtually every single person on this planet. But the truth is that it affects some people more than others. And few out there feel its weight more than college students.
While it may sound a tad dramatic, it remains a fact that expectations are continuously on the rise for them as many find themselves dividing their time exclusively between studying and working, and that’s without even touching on the subject of the exorbitant student loans you’re doubtlessly already stressing about.
College Students & Mental Health
College students have been struggling with mental health issues for quite some time. Data from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health shows that nearly 50% of students attended counseling for mental health concerns from 2010-2013. Nearly 33% are on medication and 30% have considered attempting suicide. So needless to say, stress in college students is a serious concern.
The top mental issue students reported experiencing over that time period was anxiety, which is closely linked to stress.
While there may not be a foolproof way of eliminating stress from your life, there are several methods of dealing with stress in college students that have proven their worth over the years, and we’re going to look over some of them.
1. A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body
One of the most difficult challenges faced by college students is to maintain a healthy diet with the proper amount of variety and nutrition. When you’re always in a hurry (and away from home), instant and fast foods start to look much more appealing. Sadly, a pizza and Ramen diet only lowers the body’s energy levels, and consequently its ability to handle stress.
Ultimately, you can get stuck in a vicious cycle where you constantly seek out unhealthy foods for short-term comfort, which in the long run will only make you feel much worse. Incorporating fruits, vegetables and some whole grain products into your meals will help you feel more relaxed, alert, energetic, and thus, less stressed out.
2. Avoid the Poisons
There was certainly never anything wrong with having a beer or two after a hard day of work, but in college we have the nasty tendency to over-indulge in such things.
While the buzz of alcohol may help to keep the stress at bay for a little while, once it wears off things tend to get even worse as all your unresolved issues become quite prominent once again… and that’s without all the well-known side effects of drinking.
Additionally, alcohol is classified as a depressant and drinking regularly will have a negative impact on your mood. Also, while we’re on the subject, you should avoid all those energy boosters and whatnot: all they do is give you a short push after which you crash and feel like the whole world is coming to an end.
3. The Importance of Activity
While it is understandable that moving around and working out aren’t exactly on your agenda when you’re stressed out, it is well-known at this point that regular exercising sessions can help reduce your stress levels in the long run.
You only need to do two or three thirty-minute sessions per week to have a noticeable impact on your stress levels. Just make sure to choose a physical activity you actually like so that you can stick with it for the foreseeable future.
4. Give Sleep the Respect it Deserves
When you’re young and strong it feels like sleep is a waste of time, something reserved for boring people who have nothing else to do. Well, it may be possible to work on three or four hours of sleep for a day or two, but once it turns into a regular thing your stress increases drastically.
According to a study from Jawbone, college students get less than seven hours of sleep on 46.2% of weeknights. And the tougher the school, the less sleep students are getting in.
The human body needs its resting periods, and robbing yourself of that precious time will make you feel much more tired, anxious and stressed. It may not be possible to always get seven or eight hours of sleep, but you ought to do it whenever you get the chance.
5. Don’t Let the Pile Grow
Each and every person has at some point continuously put off a task or responsibility until the very last possible second, but for some of us it’s more of an unhealthy habit than a one-time mistake.
It is true that some people thrive under pressure, but in general putting off assignments and homework is a poor practice; the taller your pile of tasks grows, the more your stress levels rise. If possible, don’t put anything off for later if you can avoid it.
6. Find Your Pace
Even if you have a thousand and one things to do, you can always afford to take small breaks from your work here and there to relax for a little bit. You must give your mind the time to rest, relax and clear itself up, otherwise it becomes cluttered and whatever you’re doing starts feeling much more complicated and frustrating.
Even if it’s just for five minutes, take your breaks regularly throughout the day. If anything, having a clear mind will help you keep your mood in a good place, which is one of the main factors in stress prevention.
7. Practice Some Relaxation Techniques
There are dozens, if not hundreds of different relaxation techniques you can try, and most of them are extremely cheap, if not downright free. They include visualization, positive thinking therapy, playing with a stress ball, meditation, and all sorts of other wholesome activities you can easily find out about online.
Many of these techniques will be simple enough that you will be able to employ them anywhere to help you get through stressful situations wherever they arise.
8. Stay True to Your Passions
You may indeed have a very demanding schedule, but do try to find at least a free hour or two per week during which you can practice your hobby or pursue anything you’re passionate about. This will help you gain some peace of mind and make you feel more in control over your life and where it’s headed.
The simple act of doing something you really like merely because you want to is an excellent way of allowing your mind to release some of the stress it’s been building up.
9. Keep Away from Social Media
Let’s admit it, we students waste a bit too much time and energy on social media sites, constantly liking, following, arguing, gossiping and whatnot. While socializing is indeed fun, investing yourself too deeply in it will only make you more stressed in the long run.
When most of your time is dedicated to caring about what people online think of you or what to reply with in a heated argument, you can bet the house it will do nothing good for your stress levels. By signing off you’ll end up having more relaxing personal time, and with a bit of luck you may even get some work done.
10. Look for the Right Support
There are times when the stress in our lives just keeps on growing and the most effective way of dealing with it is to just “vent” to someone. When these moments arrive it’s important that you not hesitate to get in touch with a good friend or family member you feel can listen to you, understand you, and maybe even offer some helpful advice.
If those aren’t options for you, then there are plenty of online and offline resources that allow you to reach out to kind people who will listen, anonymously if you prefer. Most college universities have counselors you can speak to as well, particularly if college is the source of your stress.
Many people severely underestimate how helpful it can be to simply talk about their problems with another human being; it’s a strong recourse you should always keep in mind.
College can be stressful, no doubt about it. But it doesn’t have to consume you. Use the 10 tips above to stay little more stress-free during your time at school, and get the most of your college experience.