Stress is the body’s reaction to a challenge, and college can certainly be a challenge. Chances are, even if you’re only a week or two into your first year at a college or university, you’re already dealing with stress of some sort. There’s a lot more required of you now that you’ve graduated from high school, and you’re facing adulthood and the myriad of decisions, freedoms, and responsibilities that come with that.
Lack of sleep, social activities, extracurricular involvement, and work coupled with classes and homework can create a recipe for emotional strain, and if you’re not careful, you could end up dealing with some unhealthy symptoms and habits as a result. The thing is, you’re not alone. It’s typical for college students to experience great levels of stress, especially related to academics. In a study done by ADAA, 20 percent of college students said they feel stressed “most of the time,” and 80 percent said they sometimes or often feel stressed, according to Learn Psychology.
The key is managing your stress. Instead of letting it overtake you, implement a few of the healthy habits below to make sure you’re operating as your best self. You won’t regret it!
1. Get adequate sleep
Sleep is a miracle worker. Any problem, even if it’s small, can seem monstrous when you’re operating on lack of sleep. Sleep improves memory, helps you heal, spurs creativity, improves performance, sharpens your attention, and does much, much more.
If you find that you’re feeling overly stressed, you might just need to catch up on your Z’s. It can be tempting to pull all nighters in order to cram in that last bit of studying, but in reality, your memory and recall will be much better if you get adequate sleep the night before a test.
Can’t shake your anxieties? Go take a walk around campus, or suit up for a run. Exercise pumps up your endorphins, which are your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. It can also help you forget about the various troubles that had you worried, as you’ll be focusing on making it through whatever workout you selected.
If you can set a goal for yourself—such as walking or running a mile each day—you’ll probably find that your overall mood is improved, as well as your general health. Struggling to get moving? Introduce some variety into your routine, and try some different types of physical activity. Have a friend hold you accountable, or exercise in increments. Try and find an activity you enjoy, and you’ll find it easier to exercise on a regular basis.
3. Talk it out
Some stressors can circle around and around in our brains like a hamster on a wheel. Getting stuck in destructive thought patterns? Connect with a trusted friend or family member, and tell them about what your dealing with. A listening ear can be a huge comfort in trying times, and your loved one might have some helpful words of advice.
Everyone needs emotional support, whether your problems are big or small. You’ll be able to empty some tensions by talking it through, and it’s always helpful to know there’s someone rooting for you without judgment.
4. Journal and pray
Writing out your worries on a regular basis can be a huge help when you’re dealing with stress. Sometimes, it’s hard to identify what exactly is bothering you until you get it all down on paper. Journaling can help you sort out your struggles, look at things a bit more logically, and release your agitation into a safe place.
Prayer is also helpful. Whether you pray by journaling or you talk to God out loud or in your head, take some time to tell the Lord your concerns. He loves you and wants to hear about what’s on your mind. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
5. Seek professional help
Most college campuses nowadays have a counseling center—and for good reason! With so many students dealing with academic stress, along with a multitude of other emotional obstacles, rates of depression and anxiety are skyrocketing. A professional counselor or psychologist will have the tools and skills that you need to deal with whatever problem you’re working through.
At the very least, it’s nice to have a mature individual who will listen to what’s going on and advise accordingly.