College is often talked about as one of the most fun times of a person’s life. It’s the time where you meet life long friends, go to parties, play sports, join a fraternity, and generally that first sense of freedom. The part that is often ignored and that young adults are often unprepared for is just how stressful it can be. Being independent for the first time alone is stressful. Then pile on balancing that freedom with parties, alcohol, friends, little sleep, and classwork. It’s an age where people feel that they can tackle the world and are often times shown that they in fact are just human. They are often ill prepared for all that college presents and are prone to becoming overwhelmed and having difficulties managing all of their expectations and stress.
Stress in and of itself is not always a bad thing. It is stress that will motivate the student to do well and learn to balance all of these responsibilities as practice for adulthood. It is stress that teaches them to balance the social, academic or occupational, and familial arenas that most everyone faces on a daily basis. But when this stress becomes too much it can not only impede their ability to succeed but lead to deeper troubles such as anxiety and depression. The important lesson is to learn to manage stress and keep it under control, rather than try to eliminate it, before it turns into a larger problem. There are a number of useful tips a college student, or really anyone, can use to manage stress and focus it into a more productive, happy, and fulfilled college experience so that you can be that person who talks about how college was the best time of your life, rather than look back and be thankful you just barely survived.
- Eat Healthy: everyone knows a well balanced diet is key to a healthy body, but it is also important for a healthy mind. In college it is easy to get caught up in the freedom and socializing and forget to care for yourself. Junk food and alcohol is often in abundance on campuses. It is not necessary to avoid those all together, but moderation and balance is key. Making sure your body has all of the nutrients it needs and maintaining healthy weight sets you up both mentally and physically for the most successful college experience.
- Exercise: is not only good for you physically but enhances your ability to cope with stress and improves focus as well. This will help reinvigorate and recharge when feeling overwhelmed. If you can’t make it to the gym, little movement breaks during study sessions can also help reduce stress. Simply getting up and walking around for a minute or two can make all the difference. Or try doing some basic yoga stretches in your chair.
- Spend Time Outside: being cooped up studying or sharing living space or in class can be draining. Getting outside and getting some fresh air provides a nice break and is a natural mood boost.
- Mindfulness: is the practice of remaining in the moment. This does not mean getting rid of stress or ignoring it, but simply acknowledging it is there and choosing to stay focused and present in the moment. Mindfulness activities can range from meditation, to sensory experiences, to brief breathing exercises. Taking 15 minutes a day to focus on these activities will not only reduce stress but improve focus on productivity as well, which also reduces stress.
- Manage Time: proper time management is crucial to reducing stress and improving success in college. This means that no matter what activity you are doing, time is spent wisely. Scheduling can assist in managing time and discovering how much time each part of your life will take so that you can plan accordingly in the future. It’s important to remember that scheduling will not matter if you do not stick to it, so perhaps the most important part of time management is following through and remaining firm in your schedule when at all possible.
- Organize: breaking large tasks into more manageable and less overwhelming smaller tasks will help reduce stress and again improve productivity. When overwhelmed we tend to make tasks larger than they are and tackle them as such, leading to wasted time and energy. Organizing your self, breaking things down into smaller pieces, managing time, setting priorities are all skills that take practice but that are vital to success and reduced stress.
- Don’t Procrastinate: procrastination is one of the leading contributors to stress in college students. It is important to not place your academic success as a low priority and therefore become overwhelmed when it is not done successfully. Parties will always be there, your friends will always be there, but your school work may not if you continue to miss deadlines or not complete it to the best of your ability due to procrastination. Work ahead and on time and you will find that you actually have more time for the other parts of the college experience.
- Be Social: but set limits. Its important not to isolate yourself but also important to find the healthy boundary between when its healthy to spend time with your friends and when you need to go back to your room and hit the books. Finding that healthy balance will enhance social relationships and improve academic performance rather than detract from either. Its important to find those small opportunities to be social that may not always be obvious, such as meeting up for lunch between classes or breakfast before classes, rather than focusing on only being social in the evenings. Study groups are also a great way to balance the academic and social, as long as they are productive and supportive rather than distracting.
- Don’t Stop The Activities You Love: these are the ones that make you who you are. They are what brought you to college and keep you happy. They refresh your soul and give you energy. These are not the activities that take time away from academics but better prepare you to tackle your academics to the best of your ability. It could be anything from drawing to listening to music to running to playing a particular sport.