Stress Management for College Students

Stressed student at a desk surrounded by other students

As a college student, stressful situations are likely to arise. While some stress may promote change and serve as a positive motivator, it can also manifest itself negatively. In modern life, people frequently experience multiple stressors on a near-constant basis. This distress can lead to emotional problems like panic attacks and physical problems like headaches and an upset stomach. Fortunately, using solid stress management techniques can help restore your wellness and get your life back on track.

Understanding the Causes and Triggers of Your Stress

Many people find that when they understand what’s causing their emotional turmoil, they are better able to control it. Going off to college represents a significant transition in your life. This is likely the first time that you’ve been completely responsible for yourself, making decisions such as when to go to bed, which courses to take, how to manage your money and which career choice to pursue. The weight of decision-making can be stressful. This is why freshmen in particular are often susceptible to stress.

Juniors and seniors are also at a high risk of stress because they’re approaching the end of their college days. Now is the time to get serious about making career decisions. Even if you know which field you want to enter, you may start second-guessing yourself, and this can be stressful.

In addition, college students often experience stress because of the increased demands on their time. Not only do you need to attend classes and complete your assignments, but you also need to study for final exams, participate in extracurricular activities and perhaps complete an internship.

Once you understand exactly where your stress is coming from, you can begin to make a plan for dealing with it. If you are worried about your future career, for instance, you can speak with your academic advisor. If you are having trouble managing your time, it may be time to cut back on extracurricular activities or take a more balanced course load next semester.

Improving Your Sleep Hygiene

Along with addressing the root causes of your stress, improving your sleep hygiene can support stress management. Your brain does its housekeeping during sleep clearing away toxic waste products that hamper your cognition. College students often struggle to get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation can lead to problems with memory retention, concentration, headaches and yes, also stress. Take these steps to improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, even on weekends and if your class schedule changes.
  • Talk with your roommate about your sleep schedule so both of you can get on the same page.
  • Use an eye mask to block out light.
  • Use earplugs or a white noise machine to block out dorm or apartment noises.
  • Practice deep breathing when you first get in bed to regulate your heart rate and help you fall asleep faster.

Taking Advantage of the Body-Mind Connection

It’s a scientific fact that the body affects the mind and vice versa. For example, people with depression may experience headaches and upset stomachs, and people with chronic pain are more likely to suffer from depression. You can use the body-mind connection to your advantage to help you cope with stress.

Start by improving your diet. When you eat healthy foods, your body has more energy and your mind is better able to cope with stress. Avoid the free pizza at all those club meetings and instead grab a salad that includes a protein source. Drink plenty of water instead of soda and try to cut back on caffeine.

Even if you feel short on time, it’s also important to exercise at least a few days per week. Choose an activity you genuinely enjoy and invite your roommate or another friend to work out with you.

Finding a Coping Technique That Works for You

There are lots of coping techniques for stress management, so try multiple approaches to discover what works best for you. Some people enjoy guided meditation. If you’re interested in giving it a try, search for free guided meditation videos on YouTube. Other people do yoga or tai chi. The relaxing movements are good for your physical health as well as your mental well-being.

It can also be beneficial to get into the habit of questioning your responses to stressors. When something stresses you out, ask yourself if it’s something you can control. If so, do something to positively change the situation. If not, try to accept the fact that there are some things you cannot change. During these times, some students turn to their faith for solace.

Grand Canyon University cares about the mental health of our students. In addition to our physical health and wellness services, our campus offers mental health counseling services through the Office of Student Care, located in the Student Life Building 26. Our counselors provide solution-focused counseling and crisis intervention services to students who are experiencing life-threatening mental health crises. Your health and safety are important to us, and we look forward to partnering with you to build a successful future.

To learn more about how you can join the ever-growing community of like-minded students at GCU, click the Request Information button on this page. Get started on your journey to find your purpose with a meaningful degree.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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