Under pressure. It’s a daily reality for thousands of college-aged students across the U.S., and experts fear they’re not gaining the stress-coping skills they need once they leave college and enter the working world.
Learning ways to handle stress and negative emotions in college sets students up for greater success at work and at home. However, many students pursuing college degrees are juggling financial strain, busy social lives and part-time jobs without the tools for handling the anxiety that comes with this kind of lifestyle. The consequences can be very serious, if not deadly, including a potential for drug or alcohol addictions, heart problems, poor nutrition, high blood pressure and an inability to concentrate.
Additionally, many students find themselves working through the added anxiety of needing to maintain top grade performance while being active in collegiate activities or athletics – all with a heavy reliance on self-motivation. When the stress becomes too overwhelming, even accomplished students can show a decline in class attendance or withdrawal from social activities.
Stress management for college students can include learning breathing or meditation practices, which are typically offered at student centers at many campuses. Students who already have preexisting conditions, such as an anxiety disorder or a mental illness, are especially at risk for the negative effects of stress. Many times, sleep deprivation can occur and be ongoing for weeks or months as the student strives to balance all their commitments and is also unable to sleep because of stress-induced anxiety.
Support for coping with college stress can be found at many campus resource centers, including counseling at no charge. Some universities, including the University of Georgia, offer suggestions for a wellness-based approach to helping students manage stress from their college web site. Tips provided focus on preventative efforts, such as building healthy eating and regular exercise into a weekly plan. Other stress management tips for students include striving for a positive mental attitude and making sleep a priority.
Exercise, say experts, may be a simple solution for college students. Even a brisk walk around campus can help ease breathing and lower blood pressure. Because much of stress is related to a sense of losing control of the situation, it is also suggested that college students do not give in to a desire to procrastinate on big projects, but rather conquer them in small segments before the deadline.
While energy drinks and coffee bars continue to be widely used by college students, the physical effects of these stimulants can actually lead to heightened levels of stress and anxiety. Staying hydrated with water is a better choice for remaining alert, but calm.
The independence of the college lifestyle can also increase stress levels for some students, especially those who struggle to stay on-task. Students who make weekly lists of goals to accomplish, or map out blocks of time to accomplish certain projects, can see reduced stress levels.
Stress and college life – the combination seems to persist for many students across the nation. By focusing on regular, planned activities to help reduce stress and anxiety levels before they get too high, many students may find they can reach their goals and enjoy the process of getting there.