Ahh, stress. It is a well-known feeling for most college students. Between juggling schoolwork, jobs, relationships, a social life, and trying to decide what to do with their lives, it’s no wonder they struggle with mental, physical and emotional health.
While a certain degree of stress can be healthy and motivational, this threshold can easily be surpassed. It can take a real toll on a student’s well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive stress can reduce productivity, and increase sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety and even physical effects ranging from sore muscles to stomach aches. To avoid these symptoms, here are some tips to stay happy, healthy, and reduce stress while managing the demands of college life.
Use a Planner
Stress is often brought on by feeling overwhelmed with tasks, which is a common occurrence when attending college. List each assignment and allotting time to complete it. That way, you can stay on top of what you need to do and when. The most effective way to do this is by using a planner on a regular basis. Some students simply rely on themselves to remember due dates. Then they wonder why they miss deadlines or forget important information. By writing down each task, you can organize your work and better manage your time.
The best thing about planners is that you can actually plan out your schedule WEEKS ahead of time. Nearly every college class supplies a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. Take half an hour to go through each class’s syllabus. Write down all of the important due dates in your planner. Every Sunday, look at what you have to accomplish that week. Look ahead two to three weeks out for big projects, assignments or tests so that you are aware of them and can further plan for allotted study or work time.
It is one thing to write down assignments and due dates in a planner. However, it is an entirely different matter to actually do the work. Putting off tasks can lead to trouble very quickly. Have you ever decided to write a research paper at the last minute and then realized that there is no information on the topic? What about technical issues involving a computer crash or a broken-down printer? Odds are, you or someone you know has encountered one of these scenarios at some point in their academic career.
Waiting to study, start an assignment, or worse start a huge project, ultimately causes more stress. While you may act like binge-watching Netflix or going out with your friends is more relaxing than doing your schoolwork, your responsibilities are likely still lurking in the back of your mind waiting to be addressed. It’s no fun to feel guilty when you’re trying to enjoy yourself! Take the initiative to complete (or at least start) your tasks before lounging or hanging out, to avoid a potentially more stressful situation further down the road.
With that said, it is very important to take breaks when doing big projects and studying for exams. However, there is a difference between watching an episode on Netflix after you’ve been studying for two hours and watching an entire season after reading one chapter of your textbook. The key is to balance breaks and work time to complete assignments without losing your mind. Some good break activities could include going for a walk, calling a friend, watching (some) TV, grabbing a snack or cleaning. If you have any hobbies, be sure to take some time for them between studying! Whether it be playing an instrument, woodworking, drawing, painting, reading or writing, don’t allow your creativity to go by the wayside while you’re at school! Sneak them into your breaks and do something you really enjoy!
Usually, when we are stressed, our first instinct is to reach for comfort food such as ice cream, pizza, chips or really anything high in carbs and sugar. However, when our diet consists primarily of these types of foods, we are depriving ourselves of nutrients that our body and mind need to operate at an optimal level. Stress.org cites that eating a lot of sugar or simple carbohydrates such as white bread, rice, pasta, and cereal can cause us to crash and feel tired or fatigued which can negatively affect our productivity and overall health.
Additionally, Web MD indicates that those who are deficient in certain brain chemicals triggered by our food can actually become more susceptible to anxiety and depression. By swapping out “bad” carbs and sugary food items with fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain carbohydrates, we supply our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals. We thus sustain energy, improving brain health and fostering a positive mental state as opposed to feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed.
As with food, exercise also affects brain chemicals. According to the Harvard Health Blog, when we exercise, we release chemicals in the brain that decrease inflammation and foster the growth of brain cells and vessels. Therefore, regular exercise can help with sleep, reduce stress, and manage anxiety. Feeling healthy and strong physically can help us to feel healthy and strong mentally as well. However, it should be noted that people’s preference for stress-reducing exercise may vary. For example, some people may feel more relaxed after practicing yoga or meditation. Others may find that they can reduce their stress by lifting weights or running. Take the time to experiment! Find which exercise is best for you to keep your mind and body in working order.
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