Ways for College Students to Manage Stress and Anxiety

According to the National College Health Assessment, 34.2% of college students reported stress affecting their academic performance and 27.8% of college students reported anxiety affecting their academic performance. Stress and anxiety in students are not uncommon during their college experience. Going to college can be exciting, but it can also cause financial worries, emotional problems, and tremendous stress for a lot of students, especially if you move away from home. Stress and anxiety look different in every college student, so even if your stress levels are the same as your friends, they can manifest differently for you. Here are some ways to recognize stress in college and what to do about it. 

Common Symptoms of Stress in College

1. You’re Anxious

We're trying to increase mental health awareness.

Maciej Kraus

If you find yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed in certain situations or environments, you may be experiencing significant stress. This is a common symptom of stress in college as there are often many different things to think about and juggle, from schoolwork to keeping up with your social life. Anxiety can manifest itself in a few ways. If you’re feeling tense or nervous, experiencing racing thoughts, or can’t focus, then you’re most likely experiencing anxiety.

2. You’re Irritable

Stress and anxiety cause you to feel more irritable than usual, so if you see yourself lashing out at your family or friends, it’s probably from stress. Lack of sleep, changes in your eating habits, or feeling overwhelmed by your workload can all cause you to be irritable as a result of being stressed. If you find that you’re snapping at others or easily frustrated by small things, it’s time to take a look at some stressors in your life. 

3. More or Less Emotional

You may find yourself feeling more sensitive or reactive than usual, or you may feel more detached or aloof. These emotional changes can be difficult to manage and can make it harder to cope with stress. Your brain wants a break from the stress and can take it out on your emotions. If you find yourself getting upset more than usual or feeling detached from your emotions, college stress is most likely the reason behind it. 

4. Severe Changes in Weight

You may find that you’re eating more or less than usual, or you may notice that you’re gaining or losing weight without trying to. These changes in weight can be concerning and can impact your physical health, as well as your mental well-being. Severe changes in weight can be hard on your physical body, especially if you’re fluctuating a lot. If you notice these changes, it is likely that stress could be the cause.

5. Bad Eating/Drinking Habits

Are you relying on unhealthy foods or alcohol to cope with college stress? Are you skipping meals or not getting enough nutrition? These habits can be harmful to your health and can make it harder to manage stress over time. It can also make you feel sluggish because you’re not nourishing your body properly. There are many ways to cope with stress that are healthier than bad eating habits and alcohol.

How to Deal with Anxiety and Stress in College

1. See a Professional

One of the best ways to manage stress and deal with anxiety in college is to see a professional. Therapists and counselors can find the root causes of your stress and develop coping strategies that work for you personally. Your college campus most likely offers free or discounted mental health resources to help their student body manage stress. 

2. Get your Physical Health On-Track

Taking care of your body is super important for managing stress, especially when you’re at the young age of a college student. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet along with exercising regularly can make a drastic change in your stress levels. We suggest finding a physical activity you can use for healthy coping skills, such as tennis, yoga, or even pickleball! These healthy habits can help you feel more energized and help you cope with stress over time. 

3. Get on a Regular Sleep Schedule

A regular sleep schedule can also be helpful for managing stress in college. Your circadian rhythm is important for your overall health, so a good night’s rest is important for all students. Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep each night and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. If you sometimes get off track or pull an all-nighter, it’s okay! Just don’t make a habit of losing sleep. A solid sleep schedule can help you feel more rested, less stressed, and less anxious.

4. Create a Routine

Creating a routine is helpful for managing stress in college, especially if you implement it early on in the semester. This might include setting aside time for studying, exercise, socializing, and other activities. Using a calendar to have your weeks planned out at the beginning will help you see exactly what you need to do so you’re not stressed out every day thinking about your whole to-do list. 

Fighting Stress and Anxiety in College Students

There’s no avoiding stress while you’re in college, but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by it all the time throughout the semester. We know that you may feel stressed during those important exams and finals, but know that your entire college career shouldn’t feel like that. Learning how to deal with anxiety in college will help you identify what is triggering your stress and minimize the anxiety when it happens. Follow these tips on dealing with stress in college and you’ll have a great semester!