Let's face it! College is a breeding ground for stress. Most college students have at some point or another felt overwhelmed with the academic workload.
Whether it's cramming for a history midterm or rushing to complete a 15-page research paper the night before it's due, stress sets in. And learning how to deal with that stress is no easy task either. Here are some useful tips on how college students can reduce and manage stress in their daily lives.
1. Find a balance. Experts at the University of North Carolina say it's important to find a balance between both the social and academic demands of college. You don't have to miss every party, but you don't have to attend every one either. It's crucial to find the right combination of studying, playtime, activities, and quiet time (or SPAQ for short). Also, by learning to prioritize those demands, you can eliminate a lot of stress. Create a "to do" list, putting the most important tasks at the top because mapping out your priorities will help you see which items should take precedence over others. To help find that balance, Russell Martin, the Assistant Director at Ithaca College's Center for Student Leadership and Involvement tells students to develop clear goals for their college experience. "What skills, qualities, and experiences do you want to have by the time you graduate? By clarifying one's objectives and understanding one's bottom line, an individual can have a better sense of what decisions will be necessary to move toward those goals."
2. Don't procrastinate! Procrastination is a huge stress causer. Don't put things off and wait until the last minute. Get things done as they come up. You don't want to end up with too much stuff on your plate. According to psychologist William Knaus, 90 percent of college students procrastinate. Of those 90 percent, 25 percent are considered chronic procrastinators and ultimately are the ones who drop out of college. Avoid procrastination by setting realistic goals for the day and rewarding yourself after every completed task. Break large projects down into smaller pieces and study in 2-3 smaller sessions of about 30 minutes each rather than one 3-4 hour sitting. Also try to recall how awful it was to stay up all night to complete an assignment in the past. That should be enough motivation for you to use towards future goals!
3. Prepare. Lay out the clothes you plan to wear the night before and pack up your books and school supplies as well. While this may sound all too reminiscent of the fourth grade, it will actually give you an extra 15 minutes in the morning to wake yourself up at a steady pace.
4. Practice yoga and breathing techniques. There are certain exercises and breathing techniques you can use when feeling stressed out. For starters, try the "easy position." Sit cross-legged with hands on knees. Focus on your breath. Keep your spine straight and push the sit bones down into the floor. Allow the knees to gently lower. If the knees rise above your hips, sit on a cushion or block. This will help support your back and hips. Take 5-10 slow, deep breaths. On the next inhale; raise your arms over your head. Exhale and bring your arms down slowly. Repeat this 5-7 times. You can even try getting a group of friends together to take a yoga class. Check out your school's website to learn about free gym memberships and classes.
5. Surround yourself with positive people. If you are around someone who is stressed out all the time, chances are you will be too. Positive energy is infectious and associating yourself with positive people will reduce the amounts of stress in your life greatly. "Ultimately, we need to surround ourselves with people that will encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be." explains Russell Martin, of Ithaca College. "The people we surround ourselves with must be realistic and practical, but they should always be empowering us to reach higher."
6. Get a good night's sleep. It's important that you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night with absolutely NO DISTRACTIONS! A national conference on sleep, stress, and depression at the University of Michigan found that sleep deprivation could hurt a student's academic performance and raise stress levels. Really try to achieve a positive sleeping environment within your dorm room. If you have a roommate who makes it impossible for you to create such a positive atmosphere, try talking with him/her to sort things out. "Any problem you are having, including an issue with your roommate, should be faced head on," says Pablo Malavenda, the Associate Dean at Purdue University. "Don't be afraid to call home to ask for advice. However, you should really try to not always resort to people who solve problems for you. Try solving the problem yourself, first!"
7. Allow an extra 15 minutes to get to class. Rushing to class just leads to more stress! It also can cause you to forget important things like a textbook, an assignment, or even the keys to your dorm room. Give yourself some time to get there because if you do happen to forget an item, you will have extra minutes to spare to go back and retrieve it.
8. Eat breakfast. For the college student on the go, breakfast is the most likely meal to be skipped. But rolling out of bed and heading right to class isn't the most efficient way to start the day. A healthy breakfast gives your body the energy it needs to get through the day. Low amounts of energy may lead to high amounts of stress. The National Association of College & University Food Services says that eating breakfast will help students perform better in school. Even if you're pressed for time, have a low fat breakfast bar or a piece of fruit on the go.
9. Manage your time. It is important to become active within your campus community through your own personal involvement in extracurricular activities. Students may feel that they have to join as many clubs as possible to try and fit in with other students and that may lead to a great amount of stress. Associate Dean Pablo Malavenda, says, "You don't want to juggle too many balls but you don't want to juggle just one either." It is important to challenge yourself. He also suggests getting involved right away. "It may take quite a few tries before finding the club that feels right for you." Purdue University suggests picking three extracurricular activities that have to do with three different aspects of college life. Get involved where you reside, where you study, and in what you are passionate about. "Be a part of your residence hall's council, join your school's honor society and engage yourself in something you enjoyed doing in high school." Malavenda advises. Some students can handle joining three organizations, while others can't. "It is a very individual thing. Try seeing what your own limits are."
10. Blow off some steam. Have stress that just doesn't go away? A hot shower or a trip to the gym might do the trick. Dr. Gregory Hall, of Bentley College in Massachusetts, suggests adding a physical workout to your daily routine every other day. Try engaging yourself in some activity that you enjoy doing. Power walking, jogging, bike riding, and swimming are four excellent activities to consider. You can even dance away your stress and join a hip-hop class.
11. Join a study group. Studying with a group of people consisting of about 6-8 people rather than studying by yourself can release a great deal of stress and can prove to be very beneficial. In a study group, everyone contributes their ideas and insight to the assignments, therefore everyone benefits. If you do consider yourself a procrastinator, Dr. Eric Rosenthal, the Director of Academic Advising and Counseling at Harper College in Illinois, suggests entering into a study group. It will help keep you on top of your assignments because the other members will be depending on you for your input.
12. Get help. Balancing demanding class schedules, study groups, exams, and a social life can be tough. If you find that school stress is getting too hard to manage on your own, talk to a professional. Colleges offer free counseling services and workshops for students. So, don't be afraid to use your school's resources to help you get things in perspective.
• Various college Web sites