It’s easy to become overwhelmed in this environment. The academic and social pressure alone is enough to impact one’s quality of life. If college stress is festering feelings of anxiety and worry within you, take heart.
There are myriad ways to tackle this issue head-on and reclaim the student experience you deserve. Today, we’re taking a look at a few of the best ways to reduce anxiety, even amid the busiest college life.
Ready to learn more? Let’s go!
- Prioritize Sleep
It’s no secret that college students are a sleep-deprived bunch. In fact, they only get about six hours of sleep per night, on average.
From all-night study sessions to parties with friends, your nighttime schedule may be packed. However, getting enough shut-eye can improve your mental health in a major way.
When we deprive our bodies of the sleep they need, stress levels surge and even the tiniest issue can set off a negative response the next day. Moreover, insufficient sleep can lead to various health problems, from diabetes to obesity.
Aim for around seven to nine hours of sleep per night for maximum health benefits. While it may be tempting to burn the midnight oil and get those seven hours in the afternoon, it’s best to align your sleep-wake cycle within normal parameters.
- Improve Your Diet
Exhaustion and poor nutrition often go hand-in-hand, and both can contribute to heightened anxiety levels. While it’s easiest to survive on a diet of leftover pizza and fast food, it isn’t wise to do so.
When you’re surviving on empty calories with little nutritional content, your energy levels drop. Then, the cycle continues as you crave sugar-rich foods to pump them back up.
Instead, try to fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins to keep you feeling your best, from head to toe.
- Exercise Often
The myth of the “Freshman 15” can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety on its own, especially among the female population of college students.
While you don’t need to work out with that refrain in mind, it is helpful to seek regular physical activity to maintain your mental health and clarity.
When you’re feeling stressed to the hilt, moving around may be the furthest thing from your mind. Yet, if you can manage to squeeze in 20 minutes of exercise per day, your stress levels will drop along with your anxiety.
To improve consistency, find an activity that you enjoy doing! From swimming to yoga, UCD has activities available and it’s likely that your apartment complex has a fitness center and a pool.
- Find a Support System
College can be an isolating time, especially if you’re attending school in a different city or state. Studies show that around 70% of college students battle loneliness, especially during their first year.
That said, don’t bottle up your anxiety and keep the pain inside. Find a trusted friend in whom you can confide and share those sentiments to get them off your chest. This may be your roommate, a pal from back home, or a family member.
Seek out someone who you know won’t judge you or try to offer you tons of unsolicited advice.
Or, you can also speak to a professional counselor or psychologist. Your student health center can provide you with recommendations. In many cases, this expert will be an on-campus staff member who’s closer than you realized.
- Remember Your Passions
What’s one hobby that brings you alive? Do you love to paint, sing, or play the piano?
Remember those passions from your youth, and don’t let them die in the midst of the hustle and bustle of college life.
Though it may be difficult to find the time in your busy schedule, try to mark off a few hours each week to hone your favorite craft. Investing in this personal time can do wonders for your stress levels and remind you of your identity outside of being a college student.
Speak to an academic advisor about places to plug in on or around campus. There may be a club or organization that’s centered on your interests! When you join, you’ll connect with peers who share the same creative pursuits and hobbies.
- Be Realistic with Expectations
Sure, most college students want to graduate with a 4.0 and ace every test they’re given. However, one of the main sources of stress among college students is unrealistic pressure.
We’re not suggesting that you slack off and give academic performance less credence but take a look at your schedule. Is it overloaded with a heavy course load, extracurriculars, and even a part-time job? If so, it won’t be long before anxiety and stress levels begin to take hold, if they haven’t already. If you feel as though you’ve taken on too much, don’t be afraid to take a step back.
Say “no” if a club leader asks you to organize the next fundraiser or spearhead a weekend event. If you’re hitting the books from sun-up to sundown, see if there’s a course you can move from your current schedule to next semester. In other words, give yourself the freedom to breathe.
- Avoid Stimulants and Depressants
When stress is on the rise, some college students reach for alcohol or drugs to depress their system and deal with the triggers.
Research reveals that more than one-third of full-time college students aged 18 to 22 engage in binge drinking every month. In addition, one in five used an illicit drug.
While this behavior may offer short-term relief, understand that any negative emotions or anxieties that you pushed below the surface will come back with a vengeance once you’re sober. Then, they’re often mixed with feelings of shame or guilt over your behavior, which deepens the hurt.
At the same time, you may reach for a third or fourth cup of coffee, a bottle of caffeine pills or a pack of energy drinks to give you enough of a buzz to make it through a difficult day. While depressants are ineffective, such stimulants can have the same effect.
Avoid turning to any of these substances to find the relief you need. In the case of stimulants, the crash you feel after that energy high puts you right back where you started, if not further behind. When you deprive your body of the sleep it needs, it runs on fumes that burn out in time.
- Find Healthy Methods of Self-Care
Thanks to a growing industry focused on wellness, self-care has become somewhat of a buzzword lately. However, it’s an important pursuit among the college student community.
From a yoga session to a professional massage, there are many ways you can pamper yourself, even on a budget. Sometimes, a night of face masks and pedicures with your friends can be enough to lift away stress.
Deep breathing exercises can also help to melt the tension away. Inhale through your nose, holding that breath for a few seconds. Then, release it through your mouth, repeating as often as you need to.
These deep breaths are in direct opposition to the short, shallow ones you tend to take when you’re feeling stressed. Try to begin your morning with this exercise and return to it every time you feel your blood pressure rise and your chest tighten with anxiety.
- Bring in Pieces of Home
Being far away from those you love and the familiar feel of home can make an anxious college student feel even more alone.
If you’re in an apartment or college dorm, you may not be able to make any physical changes to your space. However, this doesn’t mean you’re forced to look at bare walls and an empty desk.
Fill your room with personal mementos, family photographs, and other items that remind you of happiness and peace. When you get stressed, take a few minutes to look at these objects. Remember who you are outside of the fast pace of tests, lectures, and presentations and relax into the memories.
- Find Study Help
Sometimes, stress levels in college students surge because of difficult study material. Are you feeling anxious over an upcoming test because you still haven’t mastered the lessons?
If so, there are resources on campus available to help! Don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out and hire a tutor to help you understand a complex idea. Biology may not be your thing, but it’s someone else’s passion and they can help you look at the information in a new way that might make it click.
You can also reach out to your professor or speak to your advisor for more ways to find the study help you need. Confusion doesn’t have to equal stress.
Tackle College Stress One Step at a Time
College is one of the busiest and overwhelming times of your life. However, it can also be one of the most exhilarating and memorable ones if you approach it the right way.
If college stress is pulling you down, you don’t have to stay there. Today, there are more resources than ever before that can help you combat it. From diet and exercise to professional counseling, find the treatment method that offers you the most relief and stick with it.
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