College is full of exciting opportunities and new experiences. With everything going on around you, it is easy to get stressed every now and then. How does stress affect college students? Everyone has a different response to it, but generally, chronic or severe stress isn’t healthy. Here’s a look at stress management for college students, whether it’s getting involved in the community, leading a Christian lifestyle or making relationships with professors who want you to succeed — there are ways to manage college stress.
In This Article:
- Understanding the Causes and Triggers of Your College Stress
- Actionable Tips for Managing College Stress
Understanding the Causes and Triggers of Your College Stress
Before considering how to manage stress in college, it may be helpful to develop a better understanding of what stress is. Some people might 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.1 This is likely the first time that you’ve been completely responsible for yourself, making adult decisions such as which courses to take, how to manage your money, which career choice to pursue and when to go to bed. Plus, you may have increased social obligations, a demanding work schedule and a roommate you don’t know well — all of which can be stressful.
In addition, college students often experience stress because of the increased demands on their time.1 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.
Stress can be harmful to your physical, emotional and behavioral health, potentially causing issues such as:1
- Headaches and stomachaches
- Loss of concentration
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Once you understand the question, “how does stress affect college students” and learn exactly where your stress is coming from, you can begin to make a plan for dealing with it. If you are stressing 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.
Actionable Tips for Managing College Stress
There are lots of strategies for how to manage stress in college, but what works well for one person might not necessarily work for you. Try a variety of techniques to figure out what works — and then keep using those successful strategies. See which stress reliever below may work for you.
Besides the physical benefits, exercise may also help you mentally. Studies have shown that exercising aids in reducing tiredness, increasing concentration, reducing the impact of stress and providing overall support to your mental health.2
Exercise and physical activity can give your brain endorphins. By working out, you can release negative emotions and stress and become more relaxed. Having a regular exercise routine can help your anxiety decrease and health improve.2
The American College of Sports Medicine and American Health Association recommends that college students exercise for at least 30 minutes, three days a week.3
GCU offers many different sports facilities on campus which include gyms, golf course, a tennis facility, track and field, volleyball, basketball courts and more. Students are also able to join an intramural sports team. Flag football, ultimate frisbee and sand volleyball are just a few of the sports that are offered to everyone.
Practice Good Sleep Habits
Along with addressing the root causes of your stress, improving your sleep routine can support stress management. College students often struggle to get enough sleep, which can lead to problems with memory retention, concentration and also stress.4
Take these steps to help improve your sleep hygiene:4
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- 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.
Journal Your Thoughts
Journaling can be a very therapeutic way to let out stress. Whether it’s just doodling in a notebook or writing about your day in a fancy diary, it all helps reduce stress. You don’t need to have good handwriting or an expensive journal to do it either; just buy a small notebook and write or draw whatever your heart desires.
Take a Break
Getting involved is great, but if you are becoming overwhelmed with the number of activities you are involved in, take a break. You don’t have to be in every club and intramural sport to be successful. Pray about what things you might need to quit and what things you should stick with.
Find a balance that works for you and don’t be embarrassed about eliminating some activities. This is called self-care when you prioritize taking care of yourself.
Go to Office Hours
Many professors offer office hours for students to come in and ask questions or get help on assignments. Going in to get help is a great way to feel more confident about your assignments, which can make it feel less daunting and, therefore, less stressful.
Another great tip is to form study groups in your classes. As a group, you can work together to help each other understand the material better and feel less stressed about your workload.
Get Into the Word
Sometimes, all you need is a little bit of Jesus when you are stressed. Get your pens and highlighters and open your Bible when you feel the panic creeping up on you. There are plenty of passages to ease your anxiety and remind you of God’s love. Some great ones include: Philippians 4:6-7, James 1:2-4, Matthew 11:28-30 and Psalm 16:8.
Find a Life Group
Another thing to do when you are stressed is to find a good support group. This can be your family or a group of friends, but one way to find a support team fast is to join a life group. At GCU, life groups and community groups meet once a week to pray together and discuss God’s word. This is a great way to find the support you need while simultaneously supporting others.
Listen to Music
Next time you start to get anxious or stressed, plug in your headphones and play some soothing music. Mercy Me, Casting Crowns and Francesca Battistelli are great artists to listen to.
You can also download Canyon Worship albums from iTunes, written and sung by Grand Canyon University students themselves!
Talk to a Counselor
If your stress is becoming too overwhelming, reach out to GCU’s Student Care department to set up a no-cost appointment with a counselor. GCU’s counselors have seen hundreds of GCU students and are well-trained and equipped to help with, for example, optimizing a class schedule to help with stress management for college students, among other things.
Located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University offers a wide range of degree programs to choose from. Whether you’re interested in communications, business management, healthcare sciences or something else, begin managing your college stress level by getting your questions answered. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about joining GCU’s supportive learning community!
1 Broderick, T. (2022, December 21). The student’s guide to managing stress in college. BestColleges. Retrieved Sept. 18, 2023.
2 Robinson, L., Segal, J., PhD and Smith, M., MA. (2023, February 28). The mental health benefits of exercise. Helpguide.org. Retrieved Sept. 18, 2023.
3 American College Health Association: National College Health Assessment. (2014). Spring 2014 Reference Group Executive Summary. Retrieved Sept. 29, 2023.
4 Robinson, L. and Smith, M., MA. (2023, June 28). Sleep deprivation: symptoms, causes, and effects. Helpguide.org. Retrieved Sept. 18, 2023.
Approved by the assistant vice president of GCU Marketing on Oct. 12, 2023.
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.