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How to cope with stress as a college student

Practical Strategies for Managing Your Mental Health

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Stress: What is it all about?

Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body's response to anything that requires attention or action. 

Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to your overall well-being.


When stress knocks, let resilience answer the door:


When stress comes knocking, resilience is the key to answering the door. It means facing challenges with strength and determination. Resilience is like a shield that protects us from being overwhelmed, helping us bounce back stronger than before. So, when faced with stress, remember to tap into your inner resilience—it's your greatest weapon for overcoming life's obstacles.


With college comes anxiety, deadlines, grades, and performance pressure…if you’re not feeling it, are you even in college?


There is a lot of talk out there about how classes cause stress. Test time limits are stressful and unfair, due dates are anxiety-provoking and unjust, and rules are burdensome.

We can continue having those debates, but in the meantime, how do we deal with the reality?


What causes stress in college students?

According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), 44.9% of college students experience more than average stress levels, while 12.7% experience overwhelming stress levels. With so many academic demands and responsibilities as a student, it’s expected that you might feel high levels of stress from time to time. But, when stress disrupts daily activities, you need to determine the cause of your stress and how to manage it.

  • Academic Performance Pressure: This means feeling stressed because of the pressure to do well in school. College coursework can be tough, and students often feel like they have to compete to get top grades, especially if they want to go to graduate school or keep their scholarships.

  • Financial Stress: Many college students worry about money. Some struggle to pay for tuition or living expenses, even with financial aid. And knowing they'll have to pay back student loans after graduation can be stressful.

  • Multitasking Stress: College students have to juggle a lot of things at once—classes, jobs, extracurriculars, and more. Trying to do everything at once can be overwhelming and stressful.

  • Future Decisions: Some students aren't sure what they want to do after college. Deciding on a major, where to live, and other big life choices can be stressful because they feel like they'll affect their whole future.

  • Increased Responsibility and Independence: College is a time when people start becoming more independent. Leaving home, making important decisions on their own, and taking on more responsibility can be scary and stressful.

  • Peer Pressure: During college, there is often pressure from friends to do things like try unethical things or to try new things which is not right. Feeling like they have to go along with what everyone else is doing—or resisting that pressure—can be stressful for students.

Being a college student can be an exhilarating journey, filled with new experiences, friendships, and opportunities for growth. However, it can also be a time of intense pressure and stress. From academic demands to social obligations, managing your mental health is crucial for overall well-being. 


Here are some practical strategies to help you cope with stress effectively:

  1. Prioritize Self-Care: Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine. This includes getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, exercising regularly, and taking breaks when needed. Remember, taking care of your physical health is essential for managing stress.

  2. Stay Organized: Create a schedule or to-do list to help you stay on top of your assignments, projects, and commitments. Breaking tasks down into smaller, manageable steps can make them feel less overwhelming. Use planners, apps, or digital calendars to keep track of deadlines and important dates.

  3. Practice Time Management: Learn to manage your time effectively by setting realistic goals and prioritizing tasks. Avoid procrastination by tackling difficult tasks first and breaking them into smaller chunks. Remember to schedule regular study breaks to prevent burnout.

  4. Seek Support: Don't hesitate to reach out for help when you need it. Whether it's talking to a friend, family member, or counselor, sharing your feelings can provide relief and perspective. Many colleges offer counseling services or support groups specifically for students dealing with stress and mental health concerns.

  5. Engage in Relaxation Techniques: Explore relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation. These practices can help calm your mind and body, reduce tension, and improve overall well-being. Incorporate them into your daily routine, especially during times of heightened stress.

  6. Set Boundaries: Learn to say no to activities or commitments that add unnecessary stress to your life. It's okay to prioritize your own well-being and decline invitations or requests that you can't handle. Establishing boundaries helps protect your time and energy.

  7. Stay Connected: Maintain meaningful connections with friends, family, and peers. Having a support network can provide comfort, encouragement, and a sense of belonging. Make time for social activities and hobbies that bring you joy and relaxation.

  8. Practice Positive Self-Talk: Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations. Be kind and compassionate to yourself, especially during challenging times. Recognize your strengths and accomplishments, no matter how small.

  9. Engage in Activities You Enjoy: Make time for activities that bring you pleasure and fulfillment, whether it's reading, listening to music, playing sports, or spending time outdoors. Engaging in enjoyable activities can help reduce stress and boost your mood.

  10. Know When to Seek Professional Help: If you're struggling to cope with stress or experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety or depression, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Reach out to a mental health professional or counselor who can provide guidance, support, and appropriate treatment options.


Remember, managing stress is an ongoing process, and it's okay to seek support when you need it. By incorporating these practical strategies into your daily life, you can cultivate resilience and maintain your mental health as a college student.



The Stress Response:


The stress response is also known as the "fight or flight" response. The stress response is your body's way of reacting to challenges or threats. When you're stressed, your body releases hormones that make you more alert and ready to deal with the situation. This response is helpful when facing immediate danger, but too much stress for too long can be harmful to your health. It's important to find ways to manage stress, like taking breaks, exercising, and talking to someone about how you're feeling.


"When stress calls, let self-care be your ringtone." instead of letting stress dominate your thoughts and actions, prioritize self-care as your primary response. Imagine your phone ringing with a soothing melody of self-care practices—whether it's taking a break, deep breathing, or engaging in activities you enjoy. By making self-care your "ringtone," you consciously choose to prioritize your well-being in moments of stress, helping you manage and reduce its effects.

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