Almost 50% of students in college suffer from moderate to high amounts of stress. It is one of the biggest issues college students face during the entirety of their college lives. Which makes stress management for college students a must.
If you don’t know how to manage stress properly, it can lead to detrimental results on your mental and physical health, academic performance and social life.
Therefore, it is important to learn how to cope with stress effectively and prevent it from becoming overwhelming.
In this guide on stress management for college students. I will explain the importance of stress management for college students, the common causes and effects of stress, stress management techniques you can try and what you should avoid when dealing with stress.
Plus, I will also provide some exercises that can help you deal with stress in different situations. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of stress and how to manage it as a college student.
Common Causes of Stress Among College Students
There are quite a few ways stress can creep into the lives of college students. Here are some of the most common causes of stress among college students—
Change in Lifestyle
When entering college, students enter a completely new environment and lifestyle compared to their school days. The culture is new, the schedules are different and they find themselves in a new level of independence.
This can lead to drastic changes in their lifestyle and not all of them are for the best.
Through the years, I’ve seen that the most common reason for many college students to suffer from stress is due to unhealthy sleeping habits.
Many students also suffer from homesickness, loneliness, or culture shock, which can be extremely stressful, especially for first-year and international students.
Due to these sudden lifestyle changes, it becomes very difficult for some students, who can go through the fear of missing out and stressing themselves due to that.
Your college journey brings new and more difficult academic challenges than you have ever faced before.
Students have to cope with a high workload, higher expectations, more competition and more demanding courses than in high school on a regular basis.
Assignments, quizzes and surprise exams are a norm in college life but can put students in stressful situations.
Some students may also have to balance their studies with other activities such as part-time jobs, internships, extracurriculars, or volunteer work.
To meet these demands, students will have to take on extra pressure, which often leads to students suffering from extreme stress, especially when exams, project submissions and assignments are near.]
Studying while working requires effective time management, setting realistic goals, and prioritizing tasks to balance work responsibilities and dedicated study periods. It involves creating a structured schedule, maximizing breaks for focused study sessions, and utilizing resources efficiently to manage both work and academic commitments effectively.
Around 74% of college students suffer from stress due to financial troubles.College life is the beginning of adulthood and financial responsibilities are part of it. Most college students have to pay for tuition, books, housing, food, transportation and other expenses.
Some have to maintain a certain CGPA to avoid payments and maintain their scholarship. This financial situation eventually leads to a lot of pressure among college students.
It is easy to make poor financial decisions when you are in college, as many students get freedom for the first time in their life. Partying or going on expensive trips will rack up your monthly cost significantly.
These costs can create a lot of financial stress and worry for college students, especially for those who come from low-income families or have limited financial resources.
It can also lead them to pursue part-time jobs or other earning options. This extra work can also pile up the stress level of any college student.
Many students face peer pressure as they get into college. They have to deal with the expectations, opinions and judgments of their parents, teachers, friends and society.
This can lead to them being more stressed out than usual.
In some cases, students also suffer from bullying, harassment, discrimination and even violence.
These can lead to a lot of social stress and insecurity among college students, especially those who belong to minority groups or have different identities or orientations.
Effects of Stress on College Students
Stress can have various effects on the physical, mental and emotional health of college students. These can not only harm the academic progress of a student but also hamper their temperament and overall health considering their daily lives.
Being an older college student often brings valuable life experiences, a deeper sense of purpose, and a clearer understanding of personal and academic goals. Older students tend to exhibit enhanced focus, determination, and a stronger work ethic, contributing to a more enriched and meaningful learning experience. Additionally, they often bring diverse perspectives and contribute to a more vibrant academic community through their varied life experiences.
The most visible effect of stress is seen through various physical symptoms and illnesses.
Stress can trigger completely new physical issues like headaches, back pain, stomach ache, nausea, muscle tension, constipation, heartburn, indigestion and ulcers.
It can also worsen existing conditions like asthma, allergies, skin problems, infections, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain or weight loss, hair loss, acne and more.
If not treated accordingly, sometimes this can lead to a risk of development of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
As college is where students start to face stress on a constant basis due to all the activities and exams they have to take, it is ideal for learning and practicing there so that it doesn’t become a burden in their later lives.
Stress is often followed by anxiety, depression, panic attacks, phobias, PTSD, bipolar disorder and more. I have seen students start detrimental obsessions when it is exam season.
‘Doing an overnight to complete all the topics of an exam’ – that will only lead to more stress and mental exhaustion.
I have witnessed college students suffering from schizophrenia, eating disorders, substance abuse, addiction and even committing suicide due to the excessive amount of stress they kept inside them.
Anger, frustration, irritation, hostility, aggression, resentment, guilt, shame, sadness, grief and despair all start from stress for almost every college student out there.
Delving into these emotional states will lead you to feel hopeless and helpless, which will only lead to fear and paranoia throughout your college life.
And trust me, you don’t want that in your college life. Peace of mind and an optimistic approach is needed if you want to succeed in college and life. Stress just works against that. That’s why 76% of bachelor’s students have claimed that they considered dropping out due to emotional stress during their time in college.
Family support is crucial for adult students as it provides emotional encouragement, helps manage responsibilities, offers understanding during challenging times, and creates a conducive environment for studying. It can significantly impact their ability to balance multiple commitments and can serve as a pillar of support, positively influencing their motivation, confidence, and overall success in their academic pursuits.
So, unless you want to be moody with a bad temperament and hostile personality who lacks self-esteem in college, then you have to learn how to manage stress throughout your college life.
Another effect of stress on college students is procrastination, which can harm their academic performance and personal well-being. Students start to suffer from procrastination when they are stressed by the amount of work they have to do, or because they are afraid of failure, criticism, or rejection.
Boredom, distraction, or lack of interest in the subjects will also lead a student to suffer from procrastination. If you don’t deal with stress then this procrastination will become a vicious recurring cycle throughout your college life.
Moreover, procrastination can reduce the quality of your academic performance as you will rush to finish your projects and assignments at the last minute, or submit it incomplete or late. This will result in lower grades, bad CGPA, and dissatisfaction from your teachers, peers and family.
Stress Management Techniques for College Students
To deal with stress, you will need to learn how to manage it. Stress will become a daily part of your college life, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have ways to counter it.
Here are a few stress management techniques you can try when you are in college—
Get Proper Rest
A sound body leads to a sound mind. Stress accumulates due to the pressure of our surroundings. Lack of sleep and rest doesn’t help to mitigate it at all. It only makes you more stressed as you become more tired at work. Sometimes, you can be stressed due to the intense physical workload in college.
Therefore, take plenty of rest. You can do the following to ensure that:
- Get at least 6 hours of sleep, the recommended is 8 hours of sleep
- Don’t exhaust yourself when you are feeling tired
- Take necessary breaks after classes and other activities
Maintain a Healthy Diet
While the desire to grab a few quick bites of pizza and burgers becomes extremely popular when you enter college, keep in mind that junk food and drinks will not only upset your stomach but affect your physical health as well.
This often leads you to be stressed, to avoid this situation, you should take the necessary steps like:
- Ensure a healthy meal plan. You should have a balanced and nutritious diet regularly. It should be able to help you maintain the optimal blood sugar level, boost your immune system and provide you with energy and nutrients.
- Try to keep junk food & alcohol consumption to a minimum. Don’t go off partying every night and then suffer the consequences in the form of stress.
- Balance unhealthy foods with good foods. You are bound to have junk food now and then; just make sure to compensate for that with healthy meals.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead you to suffer from various diseases and health concerns. You should consume at least 3 litres of water everyday.
Working out is a great way to deal with stress. Exercise helps us to release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. These are natural chemicals in our body that work to improve our mood, reduce pain and relieve stress.
There are a lot of exercises for you to choose from. You can do heavy lifting or do cardio or calisthenics. Swimming is also a great pick that works with every muscle of your body. Just pick up an exercise routine that you like and stick to it.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week. This will help you cool down and deal with your stress in an effective manner.
- Group exercises can be a good option to connect with people and deal with stress at the same time
Try Yoga and Meditation
Meditation allows our minds to be at peace. They are one of the most popular and recommended treatments when it comes to dealing with stress.
You can also start yoga, which will not only help you with tackling stress but also stretch your muscles, improving your physical health.
- Meditate for at least 10 minutes everyday
- Group meditation sessions is most effective for beginners
- Physical yoga can also be useful
Go for a Stress Outlet
When stress starts to build up one after the other, it starts to affect our mindset and performance. Therefore, it is best to express, vent out, or release the negative emotions, thoughts and feelings that stress brings into our lives.
Doing this through some sort of activity is considered a stress outlet. This is a healthy and constructive way for college students to deal with stress. What’s best is that college is filled with clubs and activities where you can do just that.
Some examples of outlets for stress are writing, drawing, painting, singing, playing music, dancing, gardening, cooking, or doing any other hobbies or activities that can bring joy, satisfaction and relaxation.
Stress outlets will allow you to:
- Relief stress by doing something you like
- Connect with like minded people that will help you with dealing anxiety
Make Use of the Support System
One of the best ways to deal with stress is by being comfortable and relaxed in your own college environment. That is where a support system can help college students.
Almost every college across the globe has support systems for students so that they can deal with stress and depression. Support systems can provide you with:
- Therapists & counselors who will listen, understand and empathize with your situation.
- You will get specific advice and support based on your situation. This can become your place of comfort during struggling times.
But as the stats from College Pulse Survey shows, 77% of students didn’t use any of the support systems of programs offered by the college.
In that case, you can build your own support system consisting of your close friends, roommates, seniors, or teachers. Simply put, anyone in the group who cares for you and whom you can trust with your problems.
You need to adapt to your stressful situations and always think of the best outcomes. Mental fortitude is the key to success when it comes to stress management.
Yes, your situation is bad, but it will get better if you stay consistent. Having a positive thinking attitude will help you manage stress in college and improve your perspective, attitude and outlook on various situations and challenges.
The lack of negative thinking will help you avoid any mental issues like depression, self-hatred and other factors.
- Start implementing positive thinking by using affirmations, gratitude, optimism, humor, or any other techniques or strategies that can help to boost confidence.
- This will also build your motivation and resilience for tough times.
Make a Schedule and Stick to It
A big reason for stress is the change in lifestyle and then not being able to figure out what to do next which leads to procrastination. You can easily solve this by making a plan that considers all of your activities throughout a college day and sticking to it to the best of your capabilities.
This can help you to organize, prioritize and manage your time, tasks and goals in a realistic and effective way. You will also be able to avoid or reduce procrastination distractions, which ultimately will decrease your stress.
There are quite a few tools and resources you can use to create a schedule, like a calendar, a planner, or a to-do list. This way, you will be able to mark your classes, assignments, projects and important meetings, so you won’t have to stress about any of them.
- Be realistic when creating your schedule
- Make sure to incorporate exams, projects and quizzes and leave room for compromise if an unexpected situation arrives
- Be strict when following your own schedule, the first weeks are the toughest
Absolutely! Self-study tips for adult students often involve effective time management, creating a designated study space, setting specific goals, breaking down materials into manageable sections, staying organized, seeking resources such as online courses or tutorials, and maintaining a healthy work-life-study balance. Implementing these strategies can enhance autonomy in learning and optimize academic success for adult students managing multiple responsibilities.
Importance of Stress Management for College Students
Before we dive into the details, you should understand what stress management is. In general, stress management is the process of how to mitigate stress and deal with the reasons behind it in a healthy way.
This is crucial for college students because if you don’t know how to control your stress and then you will end up having a difficult time enjoying college life and your career. Proper utilization of stress management can allow you to:
Enhance Your Mental and Physical Well-being
If you are not worrying about every small detail and change in your life, then you will see a drastic change in both your mental and physical health.
Stress can affect a person’s cardiovascular system, immune system, digestion and nerves. These can lead to multiple health issues like headaches or suffering from insomnia, daily fatigue, high blood pressure, ulcers and more.
That’s just the physical issues. If you are stressed all the time, then it can lead to suffering from depression and low self-confidence. So, you are not only suffering from physical problems but mental issues as well when you’re stressed.
But if you can maintain your stress and get rid of it completely, then these issues will start to disappear as well, improving both your mental and physical health. This will ultimately improve your college experience and prepare you for the future!
Improve Your Academic Performance
41.3% of students have claimed that stress is the primary reason for their poor academic results.Biologically speaking, too much stress can lead to cognitive function failure. Stress can hamper your attention span, memorizing and problem-solving capabilities.
Plus, This makes it very hard for people, especially college students, to focus and learn something. And if you can’t focus on your learning and study, then you won’t be able to perform well in exams.
Without any doubt, exams are a vital part of your college life and your credits and portfolio depend primarily on how you do in them.
Therefore, college students need to learn how to manage stress so that they can focus on their studies and achieve their academic goals.
Strengthen Your Social Connection and Outlook
Without any doubt, a stressed student won’t be in a good mood. This can ultimately lead to unapproachable behavior and a lack of communication. Stress can also make a person irritable, isolated, withdrawn and aggressive.
In college, where you will need to work on group presentations, projects and assignments, you will need to have social connections to thrive. But if you are stressed and your social outlook feels unapproachable by others.
You can avoid these situations with proper stress management and improve your emotional regulation and interpersonal skills. This will help you build and maintain positive relationships with your peers and teachers.
What You Shouldn’t Do to Tackle Stress as a College Student
While many things can help college students cope with stress, there are also some things that can harm them or worsen their stress. Here are some of the things that you should avoid to maintain stress—
Staying Ignorant or in Denial
According to the annual report by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, 75% of college students are reluctant to seek help regarding stress, depression & anxiety.
Don’t be ignorant of the fact that you are being stressed about something. Denial will only lead to bottling up stress and then exploding at yourself.
This can prevent you from seeking or receiving the help, support, or treatment to help you through this tough situation.
Ignoring or denying the stress can lead to the accumulation, escalation, or explosion of the stress, which can have serious consequences for college students’ health, performance and relationships.
Coping Stress in Unhealthy or Destructive Ways
I have seen many cases where a student tried to deal with stress but made the wrong choices and ended up picking unhealthy or destructive ways.
If you do this, then it will cause more harm than good to your health, performance and relationships with others.
Some examples of this are bad eating habits, smoking, drinking, using drugs, gambling, self-harming, or engaging in risky or violent behaviors.
Following these paths for a prolonged amount of time can lead students to develop addiction debts, suffer from injuries and illness, or get into legal trouble. Therefore, avoid making the wrong choices when you are planning to deal with stress.
Stress is a common and normal experience for college students, but it can also have negative impacts on a student’s health, performance and relationships if they don’t take proper steps to manage it.
That’s why it is necessary for every student to learn about stress management and take the necessary steps when they are feeling stressed and anxious.
Remember, you are not alone and you can always seek help from professionals or peers if you need it. Stress is not your enemy but your challenge and you can overcome it with the right attitude, skills and support. Best of luck!
- Casper College. “Five Top Ways for College Students to Manage Stress”
- Timely Care. “Stress Management Tips for College Students”
- Best Colleges. “Balancing Stress”
- Purdue Global. “College Students Guide to Stress Management Infographic”
- What to Become. “21 Eye-Opening College Student Stress Statistics”