Coping with stress 101: the best methods for college students

Now that registration is complete at Marist most of the student community’s focus has been on surviving through the Thanksgiving “death march,” and that can only mean one thing – the Fall 2014 Semester is coming to a close.

Thanksgiving will offer the entire student body and faculty a chance to relax before the final stretch of the semester. And it’s a guarantee that most students are already worrying final project deadlines, final essays, final assignments and final exams.

And despite the excitement of being so close to Winter Break, the workload is probably beginning to pile up which can normally result in a sense of panic and stress. First step is to take a deep breath and calm down.

Stress is nothing new in college lifestyles, whether you’re a freshman facing your first finals week, or a senior realizing you only have one semester left when this one ends. Stress is a very typical and normal part of life. But stress can be harmful to your health and most students try to de-stress with methods that may not be very “health-friendly.”

In a 2012 article, “Effective Lifestyle Habits and Coping Strategies for Stress Tolerance among College Students,” in The American Journal of Health researchers Paul D. Welle and Helen M. Graf found that younger students have to deal with more stress then older students. Freshman students will tend to feel more stress because they have more stressors in their lives like beginning college, dealing with living away from home for the first time, having to participate in new social circles and especially having to deal with the stressors of the academic environment at school.

Despite younger students having more stressors than older students, Welle and Graf found that most students exhibit similar symptoms when they feel “overwhelmed.” Most students report mood swings and emotional ups and downs; difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep; and general feelings of being anxious.

So then what’s the best way for students to cope with stress?

Nothing new here it’s the same old advice:

  • Have a supportive friend group: talk to your friends or make plans to take a study break and grab lunch.
  • Stay in contact with family: talk with mom and dad if you’re feeling stressed out.
  • Make sure you get enough hours of sleep: that’s 8+ hours for students, so it’s better to sleep then pull an all-nighter.
  • Eat a balanced diet: so pizza all the time might not be a good idea during finals week, aim for a little bit of everything. Vegetables, meat, dairy, the works!
  • Get active! If you’re stressed go for a run or hit the gym, exercise will help you de-stress and keep your body feeling healthy.
  • Get some alone time: try going for a walk or spending some time in private, sometimes you just might need to think in private.
  • Take some time to do something fun: if you have a hobby take a little time to do it. It’s a great thing to do in a study break. So draw, paint, write, throw a football around outside or play an instrument, it’ll be a nice change of scene.
  • Take study breaks: try to pace the time you spend on things and then take a break and do something fun. It gives you the chance to take control of your learning environment.
  • Don’t try to avoid stress by using substance: drinking will not help you relax and cope with stress, it will only cause you more stress. One crazy night of drinking will not help you finish that essay.
  • Don’t let stress build: try to take care of things one at a time. Break major assignments into smaller pieces and don’t sweat the small things. There’s no reason to get stressed over an everyday hassle.

It’s best to know that these tips are not effective for everybody and there is a definite difference in which coping methods work better for men and women. Welle and Graf found that only five items from their list of coping methods were shared between the sexes.

Welle and Graf found that men cope with stress by having more control over their personal life and environment, getting enough sleep and having regular contact with family. Women on the other hand applied a wider variety of the coping methods and contact with family wasn’t as important for females as it was for men.

So as the semester comes to a close remember to take a break, try not to stress and above all focus on your end goal. If you feel you’re getting too overwhelmed reach out for help, call a friend or find a YouTube video to laugh at.

Good luck on finals!

One thought on “Coping with stress 101: the best methods for college students

  1. I like that you incorporated other articles and studies into your post. I didn’t know that younger students had higher stress levels than older ones. I would think Seniors have the most stress because they are anxious about graduating and the next step. Makes sense though! All of your suggestions are good ideas that all students should consider. However, I would add a point about time management and planning. Everyone is different, but for my personally, when I’m stressed the most effective way for me to organize my thoughts is to make a game plan. If i have 1,000 different things going on or due dates coming up I firstly right them all down in my planner and then set aside time to get each task done. That way I am mentally able to set my stressors on a ‘shelf’ in my head because I have a plan to get it done.

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