Stress is a huge part of college life, and everyone can agree that it really sucks. There are so many different stressors, some weighing in at a higher cost than others. All through middle and high school, they always expressed how difficult college would be. They told you all about the essays you would have to do, the friend drama to be aware of, the homesickness you would eventually encounter—so many different forms of stress. What they didn’t tell you was how to manage and deal with these stressors. Well, here are the steps I take to understand and manage the stress in my life.
1) Identify the problem. Yes, this is step one. I know it’s a little silly; I have stress, here’s what it is, duh. But there’s a little more to it than that. Just the other day, for the first time in my life, I made a list of stressors. First, I listed what it was that was stressing me out. Then, I went a little further and listed a reason that I was stressed by said thing. For example, I wrote “My room is messy”. Under that, I wrote why it was stressing me out. “I hate looking at it, I can’t work at my desk, I don’t have time to clean it.”
2) List some possible solutions. It is important to think about the solutions, whether they are achievable at this moment or not. For my example I wrote “Clean a little at a time, set aside time this weekend.”
3) Break it down. This is one of my most used steps. I do this for almost everything in my life, and stress is no different. You have one giant stressor in your life, and it is nearly impossible to deal with it head on. So, you break it down. Maybe you turn one big thing into four smaller things, or maybe you can do three or four smaller tasks that will help you accomplish the big stressor. Going back to my previous example, I turned my one big task of cleaning my room into smaller, easier tasks: clean my desk, do my dishes, put away extra shoes, hang up clothes. If I did even just one of these tasks per day, my room would be clean by the end of the week.
Aside from my three step list, there are some other ways I try to keep track of things and manage my stressors. My favorite strategy, which works extremely well for homework assignments and other due dates, is Post-It Notes. For each homework assignment I have, I write it on a sticky note with the due date on the bottom. Then, I stick each note to the notebook that corresponds with that course. Going back to the third step of our list, I also like to break down the larger homework assignments into smaller tasks. So, the other day I had to write a paper that used 10 sources. I made one sticky note that simply said “read sources” and another that said “write paper.” I stuck both of them to the notebook and moved on to the next course. At the end of this, I had several sticky notes decorating each notebook I owned. The next thing I did was look at the due dates and I numbered the Post-Its, which ones to do first and which could wait until the end.
I also like to make a To-Do list. I usually start many different ones and end up consolidating them into one large list. I make one list for homework—assignment title and due date—and one for everything else. Because I have a lot of different involvements, I usually make a couple lists, similar to the homework one. For example, Homework To-Do, RA To-Do, Club President To-Do and Misc Tasks. If this helps you, that’s great. I personally can find it to be a bit distracting at some points, so one large list with stars and colors to draw my attention to upcoming due dates I find a bit more helpful.
The last strategy I have for you is to give yourself an incentive or a reward. I know this may seem a little childish, like getting a gold sticker for finishing all of your homework. But I really think this helps to motivate me and keep me on track. Sometimes I’ll tell myself that I cannot see my friends until all of my homework is done. Especially when we have plans for that night, this is a really good way to keep me focused and speeding through. A reward, which is also kind of an incentive, might be taking a shower. I know that I have to take one, but I can use a shower to procrastinate. Maybe I’ll shower instead of an assignment in my free time, or maybe I’ll intentionally take a longer shower to stall and eat up time. If I tell myself I need to finish X, Y and Z before I can shower, chances are I’ll do them. The trick to these, however, is being able to be stern with yourself; find something that you really care about, something you would be motivated by, and use that as your incentive/reward.
There are many different stressors in the world, and they affect people in so many ways. But remember, there are also just as many ways to deal with stress too. The key is finding which way works best for you. Try a bunch of different things, and see what types of things work for you and what only stresses you out more. I believe in you, you’ve got this!