Stress is an integral part of life, especially for a college student. In fact, not all stress is bad. Those times when a little stress nudges you to become more alert and aware of your surroundings, or causes you to take more time with a course project, can be beneficial. When you recognize that the stress is detrimental to your life, you need to take action. There are a number of techniques to help college students minimize the stress they are feeling. Managing stress will help you cope with the daily pressures of college and give you more time and energy to enjoy your college experience.
TECHNIQUES-- the obvious as well as the not so obvious.
Time management: Colleges across the country agree that time management is a major hurdle for college students. Finding the balance between coursework, major projects, studying, socializing, and a job is a daunting task. Factor in a relationship and sleep, and it's easy to understand how the ability to manage time wisely is a big factor in reducing stress. TIPS: Use a notebook, planner or a software program to help you keep track of due dates, work schedules, etc. Learn to plan ahead and avoid procrastination.
Goals: Goal setting may sound like the opposite of stress management, but it isn't. With realistic goals, you will have something concrete to work toward and the light at the end of the tunnel can be seen. TIPS: Make sure your goals are realistic. Set many smaller goals, like steps toward the large goal. For example, the final project for a course might include steps such as research, outlining, writing, proofing, rewriting, and final draft.
Priorities: This is another stress management technique that, when done correctly, will be a help, not a hindrance, to stress management. Combined with time management, setting priorities will keep you on schedule. College students will certainly put their course work/classes at the top of their list of priorities, but don't forget to include things like "down-time" and relaxation. TIP: Use lists to prioritize. You may have daily, weekly and monthly lists.
Space to be alone: College life is not conducive to solitude, especially if you live on campus. The library is an obvious choice, but don't overlook the corner booth at a near-by diner, a patch of grass by the lake, or that comfy-looking chair at the local bookstore. Everyone needs a few minutes alone, whether to think without interruption or just enjoy the quiet. TIP: If you can't get away from the dorm or campus, consider the shower during an off-peak moment. As a bonus, you can sing to your heart's content and no one will be the wiser!
Exercise, Nutrition and Sleep: These are basic needs and aren't really techniques, but they're important enough to mention. A healthy life as a college student requires that first technique above to pull off. If managed right, you should be able to fit in 30 minutes of exercise (at least 3 or 4 times per week), get yourself to the cafeteria for 3 squares a day (or 2), and get 7 or 8 hours of sleep. College students regularly don't get enough sleep, so shooting for 7 or 8 is a good goal. It may sound unrealistic, but you will notice a difference in your level of stress just by taking care of yourself. TIP: Get a job at your college's fitness center, weight room or swimming pool. Depending on your duties, you may be able to do your job and exercise at the same time.
Talking about it: Managing your stress can be a little less daunting if you have someone to talk it over with. Voicing your concerns to a friend will deflate some of that built up stress. Whether you talk about a specific stress causing event or talk about stressing-out in general, you will feel better. The added benefit is that by opening up to a friend, you may help them out also. They are probably feeling stressed too. You may even be able to help each other de-stress by doing something fun together.
A diary or journal: This may not appeal to everyone and may seem like more work than it's worth to others, but for those who enjoy writing, this is another way to cope with the stress of college life. Like talking to a friend, getting your thoughts down on paper (or in your computer) puts those feelings where you can examine them and work on a strategy to manage your stress.
Money management: Most college students are broke. You are not alone. But learning how to budget your money, spend wisely, and pay your bills on time is important on two counts. One, it's necessary for your survival, and two, good money management can lower your stress level. You will certainly have less stress if your checking account isn't running in the negative. TIP: Check out college programs and workshops on money and budgeting. Take advantage of any advice given.
Relaxation techniques: The most simple, yet effective of these is deep breathing. Get comfortable. Close your eyes. Inhale through your nose, filling your diaphragm then your lungs (your belly button should rise up before your chest does). Reverse the process as you slowly exhale through your mouth. Counting your breaths will give your mind something to focus on besides whatever stress you're feeling. Another simple relaxation technique is visualization or imagery. By visualizing a favorite place (such as a beach), and imagining the sounds, sights, textures and tastes of that place, will encourage your body to let go of some stress. Other relaxation techniques are: PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation,) meditation, yoga. TIP: Deep breathing can be done anywhere. Try it right before an exam. While your fellow students scan their notes, sit back, close your eyes, and take some quiet deep breaths.
No quick solutions: Tobacco and alcohol are tempting when you're stressed-out. The cigarette or bottle of beer may temporarily quiet down your stress, but the feeling won't last. Don't use these or other drugs as a coping tool. Learn to manage your stress without them. If you can't, then seek help.
College counseling and/or health services: Most colleges have extensive tools to aid college students with stress management. There are publications, programs and peer groups to help you. Colleges anticipate student stress and provide workshops on coping skills, guest speakers, and activities designed to help you deal. The topics may include time management, recognizing stress, money management, relationships, study habits, etc.
Relaxation: College students know how to study, work, party, protest, etc. But what about relaxing? Your schedule is full and you don't have time for something as vague as relaxation, but you need it. Whatever is fun for you and is not a chore is relaxation. Things that are mindless fun are even better. Give your brain a chance to rest and recuperate. Go out dancing, catch a movie, crank up your tunes and chill, plan a get together with pizza and cards, or whatever. Have fun!
LAUGH! You've heard the expression "Laughter is the best medicine." It's true. Laughter is one of the best stress-busters there is. Conjuring up a big belly laugh out of nowhere might be impossible when you're under stress, but there are ways to utilize this stress management technique. Rent a comedy or go to the theatre to see one. Flip through your cable stations until you find a sit-com and take a half hour break while you beat some stress. The internet is another place to find laughter. There are sites devoted to the joke of the day, comics, animations, and more. Check them all out. If possible, share your laughter with a friend. Double the laughter means double the stress relief.
Important: Although most college student related stress is self-manageable, there are situations that may be serious enough to require counseling or the advice of other professionals. If the stress in your life is overwhelming and/or you feel helpless, get help.