Written by Lindsay Mensch
As the end of the semester approaches, crunch time begins. Exams, essays, and projects that have accumulated over the semester all have deadlines that seem to fall on the exact same day. This is a major reason for the huge stress epidemic that is seen in college-age students at universities across the country and the world. There are many causes of this stress, but there are also many solutions. Here are some coping strategies for the major stressors students are facing today:
You want to sleep. You want to hang out with friends. You want to watch movies, go to dinner, and spend time on your hobbies. Then, you look at the clock; where is the time for your homework? Stress commonly arises from a lack of time management. You are forced to complete important tasks at the last minute, risking quality and satisfaction. Buying a planner or using some sort of calendar to organize your days can help you tackle your tasks with minimum stress.
A lot of this stress may have to do with the high expectations you or others have. You want to produce the best possible work for the essays and lab reports that are worth a significant portion of your grade. However, these expectations can sometimes cause a block. You sit in front of your screen, but you cannot think of the “perfect” thing to start with. This is a detrimental way of thinking; beginning to work is not the same thing as the beginning of a work. Just writing your initial impulses and ideas, without regard to format or grammar, can get your juices flowing and help you to complete the 4.0 assignment you aspire to create.
You wake up, look at the clock, and realize your class starts in 10 minutes. Then you panic. Although we all hate the feeling of being late and would do anything to prevent it, it still happens. It can cause serious anxiety, but the best thing to do is calm down and head to class as soon as possible. If you don’t make it on time and attendance is mandatory, it’s not the end of the world. Read over the syllabus to see if there is anything you can do to make up what you missed, and talk to the professor if you need to.
In college, students are often pressured to party and drink. There is also a pressure to declare a major and have your life planned out before you. Both of these expectations are harmful to students. Firstly, many students are not experienced with drinking, which can lead them to making damaging decisions when they do try alcohol in college for the first time. Many of these people just want to fit in, and if they believe that drinking is the way to do that, they can become seriously hurt (whether physically, emotionally, or psychologically). The pressure to declare a major is also a major stressor. It can make you feel like you don’t have your life together, be a cause for the fear of failure, and lead you to make rash decisions on your way to discovering where you truly want to take your life. Either social stressor can be nullified by staying true to your values. Other people will always have their opinions, but in your life, you are the only one who can truly know what you want. Remember who you are.
Many people struggle because they miss their families back at home, especially out-of-state students. There was a constant sense of familiarity back at home, but college presents a plethora of challenges and new experiences that often stretch people out of their comfort zones. Of course, technology today allows people to talk with their families via Skype or Facetime. This is a great way for staying connected with your old friends and family back home. Also, having the support of these people during can be conducive to stress-reduction.
Messes can be a distraction. They can ruin your sense of internal peace and affect your ability to concentrate. The best way to avoid these disorganized situations is to prevent them in the first place. Put things back in their place as soon as you’re done with them. Clean little bits of your room every day. This scenario is not always realistic, however. Even if you’re in a crunch for time, taking a few minutes to tidy your space may help you to focus more clearly and get your work done.
College is full of opportunities to eat unhealthily and irregularly. Doing so can create physical stress on your body, which in turn affects your mind’s ability to process information (which is vital to learning). The dining halls on campus often serve greasy or food low in nutrients, but there are also many stations that serve nutrient-rich, balanced meals. At VegOut, you can get fresh fruit and hummus, even if you don’t want a full vegetarian meal. The salad bar is also a great place to get some delicious vegetables! Eating three meals every day – especially breakfast – will help you recharge and refresh, leading to less stress in the long term.
Little or No Exercise
All of the stressors listed here can accumulate within a person, to the point of bursting. Remaining sedentary and waiting for the explosion does much more harm than good in that final release. Exercise can solve this problem. Physical activity is proven to reduce stress for biochemical reasons, and it’s often a good way to take a break between classes and assignments.
It’s happening again. That feeling when you know you needed to do or bring something, but you just can’t remember what. It is a feeling ridden with panic and anxiety. This is not always preventable since we are human and forgetting is a part of life, but you can definitely reduce how often you find yourself with this emotion. Keeping a planner or writing a to-do list is important to helping you remember the little things you need to do. Having fewer little things to worry about can be a huge help in reducing stress in the long-term.
Cold and flu season is upon us. Getting sick is never fun, but you need to fight through it in college. However, there are just some days when resting is what is best. Missing a few classes might be necessary, but worth it in the long run. All that you will have to do is take a few extra hours to make up the work you missed when you are feeling better. Just get a doctor’s note and explain to your professors why you couldn’t make it to class. If you need any help, they will be more than willing to help you catch up.
Sometimes, sleepless nights are self-imposed. You need to pull an all-nighter to study, catch up, or complete an assignment. Sometimes, all of the stressors in your life give you insomnia, and you struggle to fall and stay asleep. Lack of sleep can be detrimental to your mental health. It is vital to rest your body and mind in order to function in the following days. When stress causes you to lose sleep, it can often help to take a break from technology and just relax. Sitting with a mug of tea or hot chocolate and listening to music can help you de-stress and get a more restful night’s sleep.
On top of academic and social stress associated with college, there is also a high level of financial stress that many people must face. The high costs of college are a cause of concern, but there are many things that you need to consider more important than worrying about debt. There are many scholarships for people in financial need and on merit-basis. You can’t just expect these though; it often requires a lot of time and effort devoted to essays to receive more financial compensation. If loans are still necessary, then there are many plans that allow a grace period, so that you don’t have to start paying back the loan until six months after you graduate. It will allow you to focus on your studies while in school, rather than living in financial fear.
When all else fails, sometimes you just need to stop. Taking a moment to breathe, to calm yourself, and to relax can be the most beneficial thing to do when stressful things pile up. You are not going to die if you take a much needed break, even if it means turning something in past a deadline. Sleep. Eat. Take a hot shower. Listen to music. Go for a walk or run. Watch a movie. Play an instrument. Do something you enjoy to reward your body and mind for working so hard. College is difficult, so you deserve it.