April is National Stress Awareness Month, and it's also the time of the semester when things begin to get hectic. Whether it’s putting the final touches on a thesis, preparing a presentation, striving to improve your GPA or juggling multiple responsibilities at once, life may seem overwhelming. A recent study conducted by the Associated Press and mtvU found that four out of ten college students feel stressed often, one out of five said they felt stressed most of the time, and one in ten had thoughts of suicide.
The causes of stress among college students vary: pressure to do well academically, school workload, social acceptance, issues at home, peer pressure and homesickness. While these causes of stress should not be taken lightly, there are ways students can improve their overall well-being. The following are but a few of the many strategies out there to help college students cope with stress:
- Learn to Accept What you Cannot Change. Sometimes things are beyond our control. At the end of the day ask yourself, “Did I put forth my best effort?” If so, accept things for what they are and move on. There’s nothing worse than being your own worst critic (this is coming from someone who’s been there).
- Change Your Perspective. Rather than thinking, “I wonder what will happen if…" stop and ask yourself, "Will this matter two weeks from now? Ten years from now?”
- Talk out Your Worries. It does not hurt to share concerns with someone you trust or respect. This can be a close friend, pastor, professor, significant other and so on. Sometimes talking things out with others can help you see a different side to a problem, as well as a new solution.
- Get Plenty of Rest. Lack of rest can lessen your ability to cope with stress and cause irritability. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Not only will you feel rejuvenated, but you will be able to handle stress more effectively.
- Balance Work and Recreation. All work and no play can drive one nuts. Schedule down time to relax your mind whether it’s a hobby, reading a book or participating in a campus organization. Overload all the time will eventually catch up to your body.
- Exercise/Take Time Out. Try going for a jog, deep breathing exercises, meditation, or tension relieving exercises such as holding your shoulders in a shrug for ten seconds, releasing and repeating.
- Take Frequent Breaks. You should take a two-minute break after every fifty-minutes of work. Trying to cram everything into one study session will be ineffective.
- Eat Right. Avoid eating junk food, and aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Organize your time. Keep track of deadlines on both a desk calendar and personal planner. Frequently update and check your planner, as things are subject to change. Check off items once you accomplish them.
- Change up the Scenery. Sick of being stuck in your dorm room? Try switching up where you study by working outside on a beautiful day, visiting a local coffee shop or even the library. You will be more motivated and focused outside of your normal study area.