Tackle College-Related Stress Before It Tackles You

Stress management is as much a part of college life as studying. Stress can complicate things quickly, making even the smallest obstacle feel like an impossible challenge. Students have many ways of dealing with stress, from ignoring it completely until it blows up, to ingesting loads of caffeine or becoming addicted to physical activity. None of these are healthy ways to address your stress level. If you’re considering enrolling in college, or if you’re currently a college student, we’ve compiled this helpful guide to make it easier to tackle stress before it tackles you.

Why Is School So Stressful?

College brings with it exciting challenges and the opportunity to make new, lifelong friends. But for many, it also comes with its own set of stressors.

If you’re planning to return to college in an upcoming term, now is the time to get ahead of factors that may stress you out. Preparation is key—this includes having a strong support system in place. And the more aware you are of what’s happening and why, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with the daily challenges of life as a college student.

Common Stressors for Adult Students Returning to College

According to Complete 2 Complete, some of the most common stressors experienced by adult learners returning to college for the first time include the following:

  1. Finances
  2. Balancing life responsibilities
  3. Connecting with other students
  4. Poor past grades
  5. Lack of confidence

When it’s all said and done, college isn’t cheap. However, those up-front investments in time and money are ones that will benefit you for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it any easier to attend courses and work full-time. Finances are usually a hefty consideration for students, even with the help of financial student aid. Loans must be repaid, and applications must be filled out completely and submitted every year by their deadlines.

Prioritizing college studies can be a daunting task for students returning to college. Even if you earn your degree online, you must learn how to organize your time each day to allow for class attendance or asynchronous learning.

Tips for How to Deal with College Stress

Dealing with your stress right away, or finding effective ways to prevent stress, are key ways to make college life flow a bit more easily.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Eat well, pay attention to your portion sizes, and make sure most meals are balanced. This means eating healthy portions of nutritious fruits and vegetables each day, and if you snack, opt for healthy indulgences, such as yogurt, carrot sticks, bananas, or dark chocolate. Harvard Health has great tips for eating in a way that boosts energy levels throughout the day.

Stay Organized

Organization is key when it comes to reducing stress. This is true for everyone in every walk of life, but it’s especially important for students. Centralize your most important information, such as test dates and assignments, and keep it with you and easily accessed. Mobile apps are good for helping you stay organized when it comes to important appointments, reminders, and class times. Some of the more popular include:

Get Plenty of Sleep

It may be tempting to stay up all night and cram for exams the night before the test, but you’ll likely do better by pacing your study throughout the week and then getting a restful night’s sleep before the day. Sleep deprivation dulls response times, can make it difficult to focus, and may make you irritable. It can affect your performance both in and out of class.

Set Realistic Goals

Only you know what you’re capable of, so it’s up to you to set goals that are realistic and attainable. Goals like these are more doable, and they’ll inspire you to keep moving forward in a positive way.

Don’t Procrastinate

In college, procrastination is not your friend. Learn to tackle projects early and head-on, instead of putting them off until the last, panic-stricken moment. Positive Psychology offers effective tips for defeating procrastination.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness sounds easy, but it takes practice to glean the most benefit. Mobile apps such as Headspace and websites such as Mindful.org can help.

Prioritize a Healthy Work-Life Balance

It’s important to make time for work and study when attending college, but fun matters, too. Finding the right work/life balance will help you better manage feelings of stress or anxiety.

Other Tips for Managing College Stress

In addition to the practices listed above, there are several other methods of managing stress that you can leverage as you navigate toward your degree. They include:

  • Learning to set healthy boundaries
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Building a supportive network
  • Seeking professional help when needed

Knowing when to ask for help is probably the most important piece of advice you’ll run across as a student. Most schools have a mental health office where students can find the assistance they need.

Symptoms of Stress in Students

The first step in learning to manage your stress level is knowing how to recognize when it’s elevated. Though everyone may experience stress differently, there are universal signs and symptoms to watch for. Common symptoms of stress include:

  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Feeling the need to cry or vent
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tension in the neck and shoulders
  • Headache

If you’re experiencing one or more of these issues, it may be time to take a step back and try to find ways to relax and unwind.

If you’re considering enrolling in college, we invite you to explore the many degree options available at Excelsior University. Excelsior has safeguards in place to help students who feel overwhelmed or stressed by college life. Contact us today to learn more.