College students are experiencing record levels of stress today, according to “Time” magazine. The American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) identified stress “as the top impediment to their academic performance”.
College students experience stress because of the growing competition to succeed, the staggering amount of debts students accumulate to attend college and having to face the grim prospects in the job market after graduation. College students who are leaving home for the first time may suffer from being homesick. College students have to learn to get along with roommates, face intense pressure to obtain good grades and experience worries about a social/romantic life. They possibly have to get a part-time job to help defray the costs of college. All of these pressures are bound to cause stress in college students.
Stress weakens the immune system, thus making college students more susceptible to illnesses. Stress can also cause psychological problems, such as depression. Stress can cause fluctuations in weight, digestive problems, acne, muscle tension, and high blood pressure. Stress can severely reduce concentration, interfere with memory and reduce the brain’s ability to solve problems.
To reduce stress, college students should incorporate the following steps into their college life.
* Get enough sleep. College students require eight hours of sleep daily. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sixty-three percent of college students suffer from insomnia and sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep causes slow thinking, poor reaction time, frequent mistakes, irritability, forgetfulness, and depression. Short power naps are helpful, but naps that are too long will worsen sleep problems. Do not stay up late to study. Avoid the use of alcohol and caffeine for at least two hours before bedtime.
* Eat a healthy diet. College students are notoriously known for having terrible eating habits. Not having proper nutrition causes stress. Stop eating fast foods and eat in the cafeterias on campus that offer a wide variety of healthy foods. All college students should take a good vitamin supplement with minerals daily.
* Exercise daily. Walk to classes with a brisk pace. Make the time to utilize the health facilities on campus at least twice a week. Exercise releases endorphins (“feel good” hormones), which reduce stress.
* Keep a daily calendar and mark important dates such as test dates and when papers are due.
* Time management is essential for reducing stress. Have a daily schedule and stick to it. Schedule study time daily. Each course requires a certain amount of studying.
* Do not procrastinate. With daily studying, there will be no need to “cram” the night before a test.
* Keep an organized desk and backpack. By being organized, less time is spent trying to find necessary items, which causes stress.
* Keep a record of money spent. College students often run out of money during the semester, and this can cause great stress. Allot a certain amount of money for the week. By keeping a record you can find where you can eliminate unnecessary purchases. This might mean not going out so often for dinners or drinks.
* Set goals. Begin with a realistic shot-term goal, then begin working on your intermediate goal. When your intermediate goal is met, you can begin working towards your long-term goal. Goal-setting helps keep you motivated. An example of goal-setting would be to make an ‘A’ on your first Biology test, which was your short-term goal. When you make an ‘A’ on your test, you will be motivated to reach your intermediate goal, which would be an ‘A’ for the course. Your long-term goal would be graduating from college with honors. Setting realistic goals reduces college stress.
* Take time for yourself daily. Every day take 10 minutes to sit and relax and meditate. Find a quiet place and clear everything from your mind. Use imagery that you find soothing. Learn to inhale deeply through your nostrils and exhale slowly through your mouth. This will help you relax. Meditation is a known stress reliever.
* Socialize with your peers. Having a friend you can talk to, go out with, study with, or just hang around with is good for college students. If you have trouble finding a friend, join one of the many college associations offered on campus. Finding peers with similar interests is a benefit in becoming active in an organization on campus. Having friends is a stress reliever.
* Call home regularly. Your family misses you as much as you miss them. They have your best interests at heart. Their reassurances and guidance will help alleviate your stress.
* Schedule fun time for yourself at least one day a week. Pick a day on weekends where you can do whatever you want without thinking about studying. Do not feel guilty. Everyone needs some time to have fun without worrying about the demands of college. This time will refresh you and you will actually be more productive when you return to your studies.
* If you are becoming overwhelmed with college life, seek counseling. All colleges have professional counselors who can help you cope with the demands of college life. Discussing your problems with a counselor can reduce your tension and provide you with valuable insight to help you manage your stress.
Your years at college should be remembered as a time in your life that was filled with exciting and newly-experienced independence, living in academia with challenging but worthwhile courses and the place where you met your lifelong friends. By actively working to reduce stress, your college years can be some of the best years of your life.