Let’s face it, college will get us stressed out no matter what. From our inability to resist procrastination, to deciding if we are going to attend that weekday party the night before a big exam, college will stress us out. If we can’t avoid stress, then why do we even bother to manage it?
The key to handling stress is just that, learning how to handle it once it comes. One of the biggest problems with college students and stress is that most college students try to “get used to stress”. At first, an individual may try to avoid stress, but we all know that phase does not last long. Next, an individual usually just accepts their fate and accepts their lives as “doomed”
You ever hear that saying, “Instead of waiting for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain?”
This may make for a good retweet on a rough day, but it’s terrible advice for a stressed out college student. I believe too many college students try to make their stressed out stage their new norm. In other words, our ideal “normal” or “doing okay” usually would mean a stress-free mood. A state of being where we aren’t thinking about anything that bothers or worries us. However, the “skill” or coping we develop in a constant stressed out stage is changing our “normal” to a state of stress. Soon, to be constantly stressed is what we would consider feeling “normal.” I suffered through this during undergrad and continue to struggle with it in Graduate School. My stress levels weren’t just high, but it felt like something was always on the back of my mind. It got so bad that during days where I actually had nothing to do, I had major anxiety.
I got stressed about not being stressed!
Basically, I was never not stressed. And when I was stressed, I actually thought I felt good. The reality was that I just felt “normal” and believed that this was the feeling I was supposed to be feeling at all times.
This new “normal” started to affect parts of my life that I did not expect. My health started deteriorating, my mood started to shift, and my anxiety continued to increase. I did not know at the time, but stress really started to harm my overall quality of life. Stress, especially at a constant level, is actually very harmful to your body.
What I had to learn as a college student was how to keep my “normal” as a non-stressed out state. Take on those moments where life felt like it was falling apart, but embrace other moments where I could take a pause from it all. Here are things I’ve learned that help me remain healthy and cope with stress.
Five Tips for Coping with Stress
- Designate times and days of the week where you will handle all of your stressful tasks. Homework, errands, etc. The other days or times you set up not to deal with those things CANNOT be touched or compromised. NO MATTER WHAT. This will let yourself and others know that you are really serious about keeping a healthy lifestyle.
- Have designated places where you will do all of your stressful tasks. For example, spend your stressful time in the library or a local coffee shop. This will help your brain and body know which areas are for work and which areas are for rest/play. I personally do not like to do anything in my room. My room is for rest and relaxation.
- Give yourself an hour before going to sleep and an hour after you wake up to not do anything that stimulates your brain. I had to force myself not to think about homework or read depressing news during those moments. Your brain needs time to shut down and to start up. I confess that this is still probably the hardest thing for me to do. But if you don’t believe me, here’s an article from sleep experts.
- Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily rhythm. I recently downloaded an app to teach me breathing exercises that decrease stress. Here is a list of a dozen relaxation apps you can consider.
- Remember that big picture. While college is important, it is only a season. That one “D” I got in Calculus 2 doesn’t really matter now even though it caused me hours of unrest when I was in college. My current employer has no idea I had to drop the class (until she reads this article). My point is that we tend to get stressed over things that end up not being huge deals in the long run. Breathe deeply. This season will pass.
Stress is a monster that you can’t run from in life. It’s also a monster that you don’t have to befriend. But a monster that you can control and take on when it comes. If you are always 2 steps ahead of it, it won’t consume your life. We tend to fear things less when we know it is coming and we know when it will go away. I recognize that life does not always work like this. Sometimes things get so crazy that we can’t control it the way we want to. But I assure you that if we build a sustainable normal, those chaos moments will be easier to handle.