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5 Ways College Students Can Cope With Stress


Credit hours: 18.

Work study hours: 14 per week.

Job leads: zero.

Getting a full night’s rest at least one day out of the week: virtually impossible.

No wonder college students are so stressed.

College students experience stress as they try to do everything at once. But what exactly is stress?

Stress is the result of the body’s reaction to any demand made on it.

“Stress effects every part of your body and brain space,” said Dr. Daniela Schreir, Psy.D. ABPP, a certified stress management consultant in Chicago.

Stress is not necessarily just nervous tension and anxiety. Stress can also provide the means to express talents and pursue happiness.  It not only affects college students, but everyone physically and psychologically. The feelings of neck, shoulder and other muscle pains, along with feeling overwhelmed are all associated with how one’s body reacts to stress.

“Stress effects your thinking pattern when you tell yourself you are overwhelmed. Your body then reacts to these thoughts physically,” she said.

According to a recent UCLA survey of college freshman, college students are feeling more overwhelmed and stressed than 15 years ago. More than 30 percent of all college freshman report feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time. 38 percent of college women report feeling frequently overwhelmed.

As college students, indicators such as insomnia and general irritability may be the results of continuing stress . How can students cope with this? Here are five tips on how to deal with it:

A healthy lifestyle is key

Counteracting stress with drugs and alcohol will not help. Not only is alcohol a depressant, prescription drugs, especially the drugs that tread ADD and ADHD, are just as dangerous.

Get enough sleep – you can never make up for it.

“As a professor, my students try to cram at the last minute, which results with the lack of sleep for days at a time,” said Dr. Schreir. “No sleep destroys your concentration; your strength is no longer there when you need it the most.”

Developing a regular exercise routine with help college students reduce stress. Try to give yourself 40 minutes worth of it a day.

Although college students may be on a budget, eating healthy is also vital for stress relief. Having a balanced diet means not eating the same thing all the time. Here are some ways to maintain a balanced diet on a college budget:

  • Eat healthy foods that are accessible in the dining halls
    • Yogurt (with low sugar content)
    • Salad and vegetables
    • Meats (without the condiments)
    • Soup
  • Pitch in with friends to buy fruits in bulk and split it amongst yourselves
  • Stock up with your own tea, especially chamomile and peppermint
  • Reduce chocolate intake, a little bit is acceptable

Reducing caffeine consumption is also important for stress relief as well.

“Caffeine masks anxiety – it’s the last legal drug in a way,” said Dr. Schreir. “To wean yourself off of caffeine, start to drink decaffeinated coffee. It will help you no longer feel anxious and irritable.”

Keep your space and mind organized

A calendar will help planning the semester ahead of time, as well as color-coding. Although it may seem like a drag, start to work ahead. Start projects early and shoot to have them done one week ahead of time.

“Time management is key. Sometimes we think we’re better at doing things last minute, but we’re usually not,” she said.

With studying, give yourself breaks in between reading. We can only concentrate for five to seven minutes, so taking a 5 minute break, walking away from your desk every 20 to 30 minutes, will help.

Call your mom more often

If your mother, or other family members have been your support system, it is important not to give that up. Checking in back home keeps you grounded and reminds you of your values.

“Your mom is always there for you, especially when you are trying to find good friends you can trust during your time in college,” said Dr. Schreir. “Remember the trust between your mom [and other family members] will be there, and along with calling once a week try to set up Skype dates; or check in via text messaging.”

Avoid “energy vampires”

What are “energy vampires” exactly?

“Energy vampires are people who take your energy away from you. They need your constant attention and they make you feel unappreciated,” she said.

A relationship, whether romantic or platonic, has to give something back to you. If your emotional investment is too high, and your partner or friend is not putting in that same effort, it is not a positive relationship.

“Never compromise yourself,” said Dr. Schreir. “You’re all you’ve got. People tend to be too giving and they make up excuses for the people that hurt them in that regard. Feeling unappreciated is unhealthy.”

Keep reality in mind with your relationships. Either it works or it does not work.

Don’t think you can climb a mountain in one day

Develop a daily habit of checking in with you in the morning and in the evening for at least 10 minutes – it can even happen through prayer or meditation.

Be grateful for the morning’s start and make a plan for the day. Accept whatever the day brings and do not be rigid with your schedule.

At the end of the day, look back at the exciting things and things that went well. If it does not go as planned, tell yourself that tomorrow is a new day with a blank slate.

“We think we can climb a mountain in one day and we can break our boulders (or problems) at once,” said Dr. Schreir. “Take a step back and conquer one boulder at a time.”

Check out this clip by Hayley from Answerly with tips on relaxing during finals week:

Photo by: CollegeDegrees360/Creative Commons



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