How To Manage Stress In College: Top Practical Tips
July 29, 2022
Many students have a hard time because they don’t know how to manage stress in college. The best definition of stress is anything that interferes with a person’s daily activities or causes psychological distress. External factors, such as job loss, family problems, or a relationship breakup, can cause it. Also, internal factors like perfectionism, self-criticism, or negative thinking can cause this psychological distress.
Many college students endure stressful moments without knowing how to overcome them. Luckily, students can try different methods of managing stress in college, but some don’t know them. This article explains what causes psychological distress while sharing tips for managing it.
What Causes Stress Among College Students?
There are several reasons why college students feel stressed. Most of them have to do with the expectations that society and individuals put on them. For example, many young people feel pressured to succeed in their studies and get good grades. They might also feel pressure to land a great job after graduation or meet their family’s expectations.
Other external factors that can cause stress among college students include:
- Financial problems: Most students have to take out loans to pay for college, which can be stressful. Also, many students worry about how they will afford to live after graduation.
- Relationship problems: College is a time when many young people start dating or enter into serious relationships. These can be excellent sources of joy, but they can also be sources of stress. Breakups are tough to deal with during this time.
- Family problems: Many students feel stressed because of the expectations that their families have for them. They might feel like they have to choose between their family’s wishes and their desires.
- Exam and coursework: The pressure to do well in exams and meet deadlines for coursework can be very stressful.
- Social obligations: College students often feel like they have to participate in social activities, even if they don’t want to. And this can be a source of stress for introverts or people who prefer to spend their free time alone.
Internal factors that can contribute to stress levels include:
- Negative thinking: If you have negative thoughts about yourself or your abilities, this can lead to stress.
- Low self-esteem: It can be harder to cope with stress if you don’t feel good about yourself.
- Perfectionism: Setting high standards for yourself and constantly trying to meet them can lead to stress.
- Self-criticism: If you constantly criticize yourself, this can increase your stress levels.
These internal and external factors can pressure students and interfere with their performance.
Why College Stress Management Matters
Knowing how to handle stress in college is essential because psychological distress can lead to more significant problems. For example, if a student doesn’t check the misery, it can lead to:
- Depression: College students under a lot of stress are at risk of developing depression.
- Anxiety: Feeling stressed can also lead to anxiety. And this can make focusing on your studies or participating in social activities challenging.
- Eating disorders: Some students turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as disordered eating, to deal with their stress.
- Substance abuse: Some students might start using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress. And this can lead to addiction and other serious problems.
- Academic problems: Stress can lead to problems such as poor grades or not finishing college.
5.9% of university clinicians ranked stress fourth among the primary mental health issues facing college students in the academic year 2018/2019. 55% of students claim that academics is their most significant stressor. Six out of ten college students reported stress levels that prevent them from doing their work at least once. 53% of students say they experience stress levels that hinder them from hanging out with friends.
These are only some issues that college students might face if they don’t know how to relieve stress or lower their level. That’s why it’s vital to find ways of dealing with this psychological distress before it gets out of hand.
Signs of Stress in College
Maybe you’re unsure whether you’re stressed or just tired. After all, college can be challenging, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. However, several signs show when the stress is no longer manageable, such as:
- Changes in eating habits
- Irritability or feeling easily annoyed
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Isolating yourself from friends and family
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Experiencing panic attacks or anxiety attacks
Experiencing these symptoms should prompt you to find ways of managing your stress levels before they get out of control.
Practical Stress Management Tips for College Students
Students can do several things to protect themselves from the harmful effects of stress. Here are some of the ways to reduce stress for students.
- Identifying Your Triggers
Identify what causes you stress. Once you’ve known the triggers, finding a way to deal with them will be easier. For example, if social media triggers your psychological distress, try to limit the time you spend on it. If homesickness is the problem, find ways to connect with your family and friends.
- Change Your Perspective
Changing your perspective and learning how to see stressful situations as challenges instead of threats is essential. This shift in thinking will help you feel more capable of dealing with the situation. It might also help if you see the situation as an opportunity to grow and learn rather than a threat.
- Set Realistic Goals
Many students feel stressed because they set unrealistic goals for themselves, such as writing whole college term papers in one day. If you want to score straight A’s, you might put too much pressure on yourself. And this could stress you if you don’t achieve or even get near your target. Therefore, try to set realistic goals that you know you can achieve. You can increase your target gradually if you reach your initial goals.
- Make Time for Relaxation
Scoring good grades is not only about spending all your time studying. Instead, find time to relax and engage in stress management activities for college students. Some of these activities include:
- Spending time with friends and family
Such activities will help you forget your worries and relax your mind. And this will help you deal with college stress.
- Get Enough Sleep
It’s also crucial to get enough sleep. Most college students don’t get enough sleep, increasing stress levels. Make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep every night.
- Avoid Artificial Energy Boosters
Many students rely on artificial energy boosters, such as caffeine to get through the day. However, this can increase anxiety and make sleeping harder at night. If you’re struggling to stay awake, try taking a nap instead of drinking more coffee.
- Don’t Give Up on Your Passions
One of the most important things to remember is not to give up on your passions. Just because you’re struggling with stress doesn’t mean you have to give up on the things you love. Pursuing your passions can help you reduce stress. So, if there’s something you’re passionate about, don’t let psychological distress stop you from going for what you desire.
- Seek Emotional Support
There will be times when you need emotional support to help you deal with stress. If you have supportive friends or family members, talk to them about your feelings. Adjusting to a new environment and college life can be challenging and frustrating. Therefore, talk to your friends or family because they might find ways to help you. Perhaps, you can seek advice from a family member or friend that doesn’t judge you when you open up to them.
- Avoid Drinking Alcohol to Relax
Many college students drink alcohol to relax, which can worsen stress. Alcohol is a depressant, leading to feelings of sadness and loneliness. Also, it can make getting a good night’s sleep challenging. If you’re struggling with stress, try to find other relaxing ways that don’t involve drinking alcohol.
- Seek Professional Assistance
If you find that you can’t manage your stress levels alone, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A counselor can help you learn how to deal with stress in college healthily. And there’s no shame in seeking help with psychological distress. An expert will help you identify the causes of your stress and find healthy ways of dealing with it.
Where to Seek Help if You Don’t Know How to Deal with College Stress
Many resources are available to college students if they need help managing stress. You can:
- Talk to your professor: they might be able to give you an extension on an assignment or help you with a difficult concept.
- Visit your campus health center: most colleges have a health center where you can receive counseling and other services.
- Contact a mental health helpline: if you need someone to talk to outside of your college, there are many helplines, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Stress is among the many hurdles you’ll likely face during college life. Short-term stress alone can help you polish your essay, raise your grade, or pursue a highly coveted career. However, chronic or long-term stress can affect you negatively if you don’t seek assistance.
The American Institute of Stress reports that four in five college learners experience frequent stress. Unfortunately, many learners don’t know how to cope with stress in college. Not addressing this problem causes physical side effects like a lack of energy, irritability, appetite changes, trouble sleeping, and a weak immune system.
Although friends, family, and work stress college students, coursework and exams are the primary stressors. Also, undesirable academic performance can stress college learners. That’s why many students are seeking help with academic tasks.
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