22 Tips for College Students to Stress Less
College students feel more than their share of stress balancing classes, dorm life, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs and social lives. While you can’t erase stress completely, you can fight it on two fronts, taking measures to avoid or minimize stress and developing coping skills to help you relax when college life becomes too stressful.
Tip to Avoid or Minimize Stress
- Keep a Detailed Calendar - A calendar that includes class schedule, assignment due dates, study times, social events and anything that will take up your time is a must. Start each semester by pulling class syllabi and adding in important dates to your digital calendar — or paper if you still prefer the written word. Color coding by class, due date and importance can help your organize. Set up automatic reminders on your phone if you're prone to procrastinate or forget dates.
- Prioritize - When you add an item to your planner or digital calendar, color-code it with a “must do” or a “want to do” color. This will help you set priorities and make choices about how to spend your time. Make sure to build some flextime into your schedule so you have time for some fun opportunities when they come up.
- Schedule Backwards - College has more long-term assignments than high school. Even if that paper isn’t due for another six weeks, get it on your calendar now and work backward from the due date. Set smaller, self-imposed due dates along the way to have parts of a large project complete so that you don’t have to pull the stressful all-nighter.
- Start a Routine. You set your own schedule in college, and it’s important to get in a groove. Figure out some basics as early as possible. How early do you want your first class? Where and when are you best able to focus studying? Where will you eat lunch and dinner? The fewer questions you have about these, the less stress you will feel when midterms and finals roll around.
- Exercise – Unless you’re on a college sports team, this one might not become an immediate priority. Even high school athletes can quickly let exercise fall to the wayside — but that’s a mistake. Join an intramural sports team, check out a group exercise class at the student gym or find a running buddy. Exercise will improve your mood and ward off the Freshman 15. Genius Tip: SignUpGenius can help you organize a walking group or a running club.
- Say NO – In high school, participating in a ton of activities might have been standard to beef up your resume, but you need to be more focused in college. Dip your toe into several groups if you’re not sure what you want to do, but hone in on your passions and choose a couple that mean the most to you. You may also be tempted to overload your schedule with parties and social events, but don’t let your new friends dictate how you spend your time.
- Know Your Sleep Requirements - Remember when your parents used to set your bedtime? Those days are over. Ideally, you’ll get eight hours of sleep each night, but it’s not just about quantity. If you get eight hours of sleep but don’t go to bed until 2 a.m. each night, your body is bound to feel out of whack.
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- Choose Nutritious Foods - A healthy body is less stressed, but with all the freedom that comes with college, nobody is making you eat your vegetables anymore. A diet of pizza and caffeine won’t help you feel or perform you best. Fill and carry around a large water bottle, and try foods proven to fight stress, such as avocados, berries, nuts, tea, oatmeal and bananas.
- Keep Your Space Tidy – It’s easy for your dorm room or apartment to become disorganized. The last thing you need is to be searching for your charger when you’re immersed in writing a research paper. Set up a time each week to straighten your room, recycle old papers and do a load of laundry. Consider buying a low maintenance houseplant to add some life to your space — and freshen your air.
- Communicate with Your Roommate – Odds are you will be living with at least one other person in college. Even if you’re best friends, fights are more likely to arise if you don’t understand how the other person thinks. Start the year off by agreeing about logistics such as cleaning, bedtimes, guests and bills (if you’re off campus). Buy a whiteboard for notes if you rarely bump into each other and don’t want to text.
- Know Your Physical Stress Indicators - Everyone reacts to stress differently: some get headaches, others get a panicky feeling in their stomach and others lash out in anger. Do some self-analysis, and figure out how you respond to stress. When you feel it coming on, it’s time to try a coping technique.
Tips for Relaxing When College Life is Stressing You Out
- Adjust Your Schedule – What isn’t working? Maybe you’ve spent too much time at an extracurricular activity this semester, and it’s time to recalibrate. Take a deep dive into what’s causing you the most stress then reprioritize.
- Take a Road Trip – Chances are you have at least one friend at college with a car. Your trip doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but it’s nice to get off campus to gain a fresh perspective. If your campus is in the country, take a trip to the city for lunch and to window shop. If you spend most of the time in a city, flip your perspective and drive out to eat at hole-in-the wall Mexican or BBQ restaurant.
- Adjust Your Expectations – If you’re used to overachieving, you might need a reality check. Did your first midterm come back with lackluster results? Take a deep breath and think about what you can do to improve. (Don’t blame other people.) Reach out to your professor or teaching assistant for suggestions.
- Take the Day Off – This can seem counterintuitive when your head is swirling with stress, but often the best way to clear your mind is a change of pace or routine. Spend Saturday tailgating and watching the football team play or taking in a movie, and you’ll be surprised how productive you are when you’re ready to return to work.
- Plan Alone Time - Now that you have a roommate and lots of new college friends, you may get stressed out from the social overload. Find a place, such as a quiet corner of the library or the quad on a sunny day, and spend some relaxing time by yourself. Turn on your favorite playlist or read a book for pleasure.
- Go to Class – This one might seem self evident, but you’d be surprised how many students stop attending once extracurriculars or internships start piling on. Take good notes and pay attention when you’re there, and you’ll save yourself a lot of late-night heartache.
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- Laugh - What makes you laugh? Whether it’s a cheesy sitcom or a favorite comedian that you follow online, take time out from your serious college learning to laugh out loud. More into telling jokes? Audition for a college improv troupe.
- Try Yoga - Yoga isn’t just for your mom. Find a studio — or download an app — to learn some stretches and poses that you can do to alleviate the stress. Some poses for stress relief: supine twist, supported bridge and downward dog. Genius Tip: If there isn’t a yoga studio nearby, then consider hiring a yoga instructor to come to you! With SignUpGenius, you can invite others in your dorm and share the cost of learning this great technique for relieving stress.
- Talk to Someone – Sometimes stress becomes more than we can handle alone. Make an appointment with your school’s psychological services, so you can vent and talk about your anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out and getting techniques to manage your stress.
- Focus on Relaxation - Focused relaxation requires that you lie still and focus on relaxing one particular part of your body after another. This 10 to 15 minute exercise will seem to melt the stress right out of your body.
- Call Home - Sometimes it helps to call mom or dad or talk to a friend from back home about what is causing your stress. Remember, everyone feels stress, so be sure to be a good listener when your friend is stressing out!
Make a conscious effort to learn what works for you. Whether it’s meditation, a relaxation playlist or a good workout at the gym, being aware of what best alleviates your stress will allow you to de-stress quickly and get back to enjoying college life.
Stacey Whitney is the mother of two teenagers and owner of WordsFound, a content company.