College is the most crucial four years of a student’s life before they advance to adulthood. Gone are the days when you can slack off, procrastinate, and delay your school requirement until a day before the deadline, because in college you have to take it all more seriously. That said, college stress is common in most students, especially if you juggle multiple subject requirements and college term papers. No one is immune to stress and college students are particularly exposed to it.
College stress often happens when a student is overwhelmed with so much work that is more than what they can handle. That kind of feeling may result in intense exhaustion, making it hard for students to function and be productive. Stress in college can be dangerous as it may trigger a student’s anxiety, depression, and many other mental illnesses if left unmanaged.
Stress in college can manifest in a number of different ways among students. Stress can diminish a student’s progress and focus, so it’s essential to understand how much stress you – as a student – can take until it becomes unbearable.
Symptoms of college stress
The body responds to stress as a way to accept a challenge. Stress makes itself visible when the body releases hormones that trigger a person’s muscles to tense, the pulse rate to surge, and the brain to become more alert. This can be a good thing in the moment of actual work, but if it remains even on normal days then it becomes a problem and may cause health concerns.
When a student is going through stressful college life, they might be:
- Having trouble focusing
- Worrying more than they ought to
- Finding it hard to remember deadlines or other necessary information
- Making drastic changes to sleeping or eating patterns
- Nagging headaches, aching muscles, nausea
- Losing patience and getting angry more frequently
- Avoiding activities they usually do
- Feeling overwhelmed more often
If the above-mentioned experience has become a common occurrence to you, then it is time to consider learning how you can manage your college stress.
Causes of college stress
There are many reasons why a student might feel stress in college. The stress of college life is not exclusive to the overwhelming syllabus workload. There are other reasons that may add to a student’s college life stress. Knowing how your body functions or how you respond to stress is essential. Here are some common factors which contribute to college stress:
Living in a dorm
Living independently in a dorm is not as easy as it looks. Many students would actually prefer living at home with their parents as it somehow makes things more relaxing for them. But other students do not have the luxury of going home after classes as the university or college they study at might be miles away from home. Living on your own for the first time might be unnerving since it is a whole new experience. It might entail longing for family and friends, feeling alienated by new people, eating unfamiliar food, and engaging in new social situations. This stress might affect you for the first few months in college. Hopefully, once you get used to everything, the feeling of unease will pass.
This is the most common college stress a student can feel. Most students feel easily overwhelmed by the volume of work they need to finish. The increased academic work in college compared to high school can be very stressful for some. Those who breezed through primary school and high school are also prone to this kind of stress. There is a whole new culture in college and it might take some time to get used to it. Some students might feel more pressure than others to perform well if they got into college through a scholarship, meaning they must maintain a higher GPA to keep that scholarship. Or in some occasions, anxiety springs from the failure to satisfy parental demands.
College expenses and bills
College is expensive. Parents often take a lifetime to earn for their child’s college tuition fee, not to mention books and other expenses. Sometimes students are left to fend for themselves. Some students have had to apply for student loans and work multiple jobs just to get into college. Working on top of studying can be very stressful for a student, and might affect their academic performance and their overall college experience. Working students tend to have less time to unwind or relax to ease their stress. Furthermore, problems and concerns with finances, along with the corresponding fears and worries, can easily translate to a lot of stress.
Friendships and relationships
In college, a student will be able to interact with different kinds of people. There is a whole new avenue of people to meet, and some of them can be friends, others could be potential partners or lovers, and some you might not agree with. All these people can add to your stress, depending on how they conduct themselves or how they affect you. The stress that comes with being in the know about the personal problems of other people can make it hard to deal with everything else in college.
What comes after college will eventually loom over a student’s thought, especially if graduation is just around the corner. Some students might worry over the thought of life after studying as it appears to be so open and full of uncertainty. The stress associated with future planning might affect how a student performs while studying as they are faced with questions about employment, paying for their crippling debt in student loans, or simply the lack of clarity regarding adulthood.
Tips on college stress management
Becoming aware of the factors that add to your stress is the first step towards managing it. No one goes about college without experiencing even a little bit of stress, but it is important to be conscious and mindful of the habits which help or distract you, which may lead to immense college stress. Here are some tips and ideas you might want to start doing to avoid heavy stress:
- Get enough sleep. No matter how tempting it is to pull off an all-nighter to be up-to-date with all the topics and discussions you missed in class, it is still vital to get those 6 to 9 hours of sleep. Take care of yourself by resting when the body needs it. Aside from stress, lack of sleep may lead to serious illnesses like diabetes, obesity, and even depression.
- Eat healthy food and exercise. A steady diet of vegetables, fruit, protein, and whole grains can go a long way, and when it’s matched with exercise, the body tends to react positively. Avoid unnatural energy boosters and drinks like caffeine pills or prescription medication. Twenty minutes of light exercise can help even a little bit, and it oftentimes leads to more intense full-hour body activities. Allow your body to explore different kinds of exercise until it finds something it’s comfortable with.
- Surround yourself with friends for emotional support. Having a group of people experiencing the same stress as you do, and being able to loosen and open up your personal problems is a cleansing experience. Having to talk about college life stress is helpful, especially if you have people who understand and support you – and from time to time give insights and advice. Let other people support you as you support them.
- Unwind and relax by doing things you are passionate about. Take time to give yourself a bit of “me time” wherein you just do things you enjoy or love without thinking about other things. By doing so, you are unburdening yourself of the college stress, giving yourself room to breathe and be who you are. It is also worth mentioning not to rely solely on alcohol to unwind. It is okay to party with friends from time to time and get drunk, but when morning comes the hangover and ill-feeling might add to the college stress.
- Avoid overloading and procrastinating. Be organized and work with a time table in between all the things you need to accomplish. It may be with classes, homework, the paper you need to write, extracurricular activities, or even a job. Make sure you have an organized work schedule to have all your tasks in check. Do not overwhelm yourself with doing it all at once as it is not at all conducive to lessen stress. Delaying or procrastinating an important task until the last days will only add more complications in the long term.
- Take breaks and ask for help from others. When you realize some of the work is beyond your capabilities then maybe it’s time to take a break and ask other people for help. There might be people around who are more than happy to help you and give you some time to breathe. Do not be shy to reach out to other people for assistance.
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