Welcome to adulthood. There once was a time when young men and women enjoyed their college years without ever encountering the definition of stress. The youth was once the epitome of innocence, intelligent (thus selective) oblivion, self-exploration, and fearlessness. Times have changed since. The modern age has brought myriad obstacles into existence for the ones who today stand before the gates of adulthood.

The question imposes itself: is this a natural course of human evolution? To bare our emotional apparatus without suppressing all that simmers underneath polished appearances. Anxiety, depression, and any stress-related conditions were once considered socially unacceptable. Could this be the face of progress? We don’t know. The question remains unanswered. “Work with what you have” is a key philosophy, and work we shall! This is our college student stress management guide. No matter how seemingly complex, there’s a solution to every problem. The future is looking good.

What is stress?

a young man in a white shirt sitting in a booth with a laptop depicting the college student stress management guide

Remember, it’s only temporary.

Without embellishing the truth, here goes nothing: stress is a natural psychological and biological response to our emotions, often caused by outer stimuli. It occurs when a person encounters a challenging situation; in essence, it’s our brain’s way of preparing us for the worst-case scenarios. Going to college raises the responsibility bar with academic achievement, expanding social circles, different time distribution, and a new environment. All of that can unleash mountains of stress hormones.

Fun fact – positive stress (like falling in love) can also cause our organism to enter full-on havoc mode. So, no, it’s not you. Adulting is simply riddled with shock, anticipation, and butt-clenching moments. No one is spared, and more importantly, no one comes fully prepared.

Most common stress causes

College students have a lot on their plates. It’s more of an all-inclusive 5-star buffet influx of questions, doubts, and worries. Common stress triggers include:

  • Sleep deficit
  • Exams
  • Grades
  • Romantic relationships
  • Jobs
  • FOMO!
  • Feeling homesick
  • Financial strains
  • Belonging to a minority

To have an overall positive college experience, students have to (sorry for using imperative, but you do) look at their habits and fears and face all impeding factors.

No.1 priority: sleep

Skipping class used to be the only kind of skipping in college practice. Today, students are infamous for skipping quality sleep hours. To their detriment, FOMO (fear of missing out) could be the lead cause of this voluntary deprivation. The loop is almost impenetrable. Sleep deprivation negatively affects our overall productivity. Students who prefer to indulge in after-dark hours (whether it be parties, studying, or just scrolling the night away on TikTok) are at risk of a cognitive hindrance (difficulty absorbing new material) and increased episodes of impaired mood. Most importantly, it can pose a threat when behind the wheel. Fixing your sleep schedule and relearning how to sleep better at night is fundamental.

Introduce physical activities

a group of young people exercising outdoors

The college student stress management guide recommends: drop that beer; grab those running shoes.

The college student stress management guide says: anything goes. Exercise is meditation in motion. Since many college students have yet to fully develop the virtue of patience, meditation can seem a bit too static for a good number. Choose your weapon; it can be anything from hitting the treadmill 4 to 5 times per week, biking, yoga, dancing, or swimming. YMCA (the choreography) could be your way to stress alleviation. No matter the form, exercise lowers adrenaline and cortisol levels (the bad hormone). In return, it pumps up your endorphin levels (the good guys).

Many students find alcohol to be an excellent stress remedy, but it isn’t. Really. This pseudo-soothing substance comes with a boomerang effect, leaving the person drinking with increased anxiety/depression levels after sobering up. Alcohol increases stress levels in our bodies. So, instead of numbing uncomfortable sensations with unhealthy substances, try fun sober activities. There are many ways to have a great time without a beer in your hand.

The power of music

Music is our primal therapy. Today, we have science to back up this multilayered, versatile phenomenon of human expression. Numerous studies have shown that not only does listening to music alleviate stress, but many other mental benefits can be harvested. Its healing properties come from unambiguous yet subliminal messages that correspond with our current emotions. It can be utilized for tautological purposes (we feel blue – we listen to sad music) or, better yet, for counteracting negative sensations that we might be feeling.

College students find relaxing music (classical, smooth jazz, or indie folk) the best companion for studying, as it generously supplies them with tranquility and creates mental space for absorbing information. On the other hand, upbeat music is great for clearing mental fog, as it improves memory capacity and speed. Define your ailment, and pick your (sound) antidote.

Find your shoulder

students sitting and laughing

College and loneliness don’t mix well. Find your human blanket.

Interpersonal relationships are never easy; that’s what adulthood teaches us as we grow older and more experienced. But college is different. The cognition of “Oh, wow. Is this the new definition of interpersonal relationships? Complex, perplexing, and full of suspense?” can, and will, hit you hard in the beginning. Life transitions are notorious for causing upheaval, but don’t worry; it’s only a sign of growth.

Breakups, new friendships, and an unfamiliar environment can trigger acute feelings of loneliness, further causing significant amounts of stress. Finding someone you can trust is one of the most critical things for any college student. True friends aren’t easy to find and don’t come by the dozen. Finding one to three people you can rely on is more than enough for your stress to return to normal. When you find them, nurture the relationship. Let it grow. Start a self-care journal. Journaling for mental health has many healing benefits.

Finally

Your college student stress management guide advises practicing mindfulness. Rather than creating intricate mechanisms for avoiding, suppressing, or reacting to stress-inducing situations, stop and take a deep breath. Have a high-quality inner monologue. By becoming aware of your feelings (and their root cause), you will teach yourself to be present, here and now. Practicing mindfulness is the path to self-acceptance. Start from there.