A commonly asked question is ‘how to reduce stress as a student’. A recent study showed that sadly 80% of students report feeling stressed sometimes or often, with 34% falling into depression. Most clinicians believe that anxiety, depression, and stress are the top concerns of U.S college students. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are a variety of ways that students can minimize their stress. Let’s look at some of the best stress management techniques that work best for college students, as well as school students.
Common Causes of Student Stress
There have been several studies that looked into what the factors are that cause student stress. In one study, the researchers observed that high school students may face stress from school and additional activities. They observed that this chronic stress could continue into their college years resulting in academic disengagement, mental health problems, anxiety and depression.
Common sources of stress include:
- Going to school
- Social challenges
- Extracurricular activities
- Transitions (graduating, moving out, living on their own, etc.)
High school students exist in competitive environments where they have to study and ace college placement tests. They have to take on challenging courses and perform well at extracurricular activities. At the same time, they have to navigate the social challenges that are common at that stage of life. Once they enter college, the stress continues to build up, as they have to make new friends, handle a more challenging workload, and at the same time transition into independent living.
Most students want to relieve stress. However, with all the activities and responsibilities they have, they struggle to find ways of adequately reducing stress.
What Are The Symptoms of Stress?
Feelings of stress and anxiety are a normal part of life. Some stress can be good for us, as it can motivate us to change and grow. However, when feelings of stress and anxiety persist, they can harm our physical and mental health.
According to the American Psychological Association, there are three types of stress.
This is the most common type of stress resulting from recent or anticipated stress. For example, exams starting next week. This stress can be both positive and negative. For instance, the excitement before a fun event can lead to acute stress. However, this stress passes over in time.
Episodic Acute Stress
This is a frequent type of stress that has a pattern of showing up in a person’s life on a regular basis. It’s accompanied by worrying about the things happening in your life. Episodic acute stress is a recurring type of stress and can likely affect people with “A Type Personality.”
Chronic Acute Stress
This type of stress persists for a long time and relentlessly wears away at you. If you face something and see no end in sight, you may likely be suffering from chronic stress. This type of stress eventually begins to harm your health and can lead to weight gain, memory and concentration impairment, heart disease, sleep problems, digestive problems, etc.
College students should be cautious of this level of stress, as it can sometimes lead to substance abuse. It is important to seek help if you are chronically stressed.
There are four main indicators of stress. They include physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. The symptoms vary depending on the individual and the causes of stress. Some of the behavioral symptoms include:
- Change in eating habits
- Trouble getting along with friends, classmates, and co-workers
- Increased use of drugs or self medicating
- Abnormal failure or procrastination in completing everyday tasks
- Significant change in academic performance
- Unhealthy desire for social isolation
- Frequent lying
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, then reducing stress should be your number one goal.
Below are some tips to relieve stress and help you when it comes to managing stress well.
How to Reduce Stress as a Student With These Tips:
1. Get Enough Sleep
Students are notorious for missing sleep, especially when they feel overwhelmed or have a lot of tests coming up. Unfortunately, operating in a sleep-deprived state does more harm than good. You become less productive, struggle learning, and you may even be a hazard because your attention is thwarted.
Sleep deprivation is harmful to your health. Your concentration, creativity, and problem-solving skills aren’t up to par when you’re sleep-deprived. Furthermore, insufficient sleep leads to additional stress.
To reduce stress, it is recommended that you get at least 8 hours of sleep. You can also take power naps when you need them.
2. Manage Your Time Wisely
You need to learn how to manage your time wisely if you want to succeed in school and reduce stress. Give yourself ample time for your studies. For instance, most college courses are designed to take about three hours of work per week per credit in the course. By multiplying your credit load by three, you can get a good idea of the time you should allocate for studying in addition to the time spent in class.
It is a good idea to set up a study schedule and break up your studies into smaller chunks. Other time management skills you need to cultivate include; planning ahead, avoiding multitasking, creating a balance between coursework and other activities, etc.
You should also set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals if you want to get things done without being overly anxious.
3. Practice Visualization
Students can effectively reduce stress using visualization. When you practice visualization, you’ll be able to calm down and detach yourself from what’s stressing you out. You can also use visualizations to prepare for presentations and score higher on tests by imagining yourself performing just as you’d like.
Check out some visualization tips for beginners here.
4. Exercise Regularly
One of the best ways to lower stress is to get regular exercise. Students can incorporate exercise like yoga, walking, or biking into their routine. Alternatively, you can use the treadmill at the school gym while at the same time revising for a test. You could also take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk to class instead of driving.
It can sometimes be hard to prioritize and schedule exercise between classes, exams, and friends. However, it’s possible to start and maintain this habit, and all it takes is persistence. You can make the exercises fun by doing it with your friends.
When your workout routine becomes boring, you can try something new and exciting like a new dance class or jogging new routes.
5. Get Organized
Getting organized is a great way to combat being stressed. You can create a system of organization for note-taking, keeping track of assignments, and other tasks. Being organized lowers your stress levels because you know where everything is, and you’ll have important deadlines, and test dates noted down. Being organized clears your mind from mental clutter resulting from disorganization.
Keep a calendar, a schedule, and a filing system for all of your assignments and classes. Write down your general weekly schedule and develop a routine. That way, you’ll have a framework that keeps you focused and on track.
6. Take Calming Breaths
High-stress levels can make it difficult for you to think clearly. Yet, one quick solution you can try is breathing exercises. These exercises help reduce depression and help regulate your body’s reaction to stress and fatigue.
How do you breathe when you’re relaxed? The next time you’re relaxed, take time to note how your body responds. Or, think about how you breathe in the morning when you wake up or at night before you go to sleep. Breathing exercises help you relax because your body feels the way it does when you rest.
When you breathe deeply, your mind sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then communicates the same to your body. When you’re stressed, the things that happen, like fast breathing, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.
7. Create a Good Study Environment
Most students don’t realize this, but a good study environment can help you lower your stress levels and boost your level of learning. Aromatherapy, for example, is known as a stress reliever and happens to be one way that you can create a good study environment. Peppermint and essential oils can wake up your brain. You can also play classical music as you study (unless you find it distracting).
A good study environment has a lot to do with location. Look for a comfortable location where you’ll experience minimal interruptions-a quiet, relaxing place where you can focus and get things done. By dedicating a particular area to study, you train your brain to focus on learning exclusively and not on other distractions.
Some people don’t do well in an office-like work environment. Instead, they enjoy working in more open, collaborative spaces like a study room in the library or with a close group of classmates. Identify the type of spaces that work for you and spice things up, so you don’t feel bored and isolated when learning.
Lastly, you can add inspiration to your workspace. What motivates you? Whatever it is, you can capture it in photos, posters, post-it-notes, etc., and display it in your study environment. Let those words and images constantly remind you of your goals and why you’re going to school.
8. Know Your Learning Style
Learning style theorists posit that people have different ways of learning. As such, it would help if you determined whether you’re more of a visual, kinesthetic, or auditory learner, so that you can tailor your study practices depending on your learning style. This approach would make it easier for you to attain success.
9. Develop Optimism
Multiple studies prove that optimists are healthier, less distressed, and more successful. But what makes someone an optimist?
Optimists are people who approach life with hope and confidence. They tend to shrug off failures and don’t let multiple successes go to their head. While some level of optimism is inborn, it is possible for anyone to develop a stronger sense of optimism. One way you can do this is by practicing positive self-talk. You can also journal every day by taking some time each morning to list some of the positive things in your life.
Developing traits of optimism is essential because it will make you a happier person, as well as help you do better in school and your future career.
10. Learn Study Skills
Study skills can make your entire school experience easier. When you know and develop these skills, you’ll be better positioned to stay focused on tasks and organize your study schedule better. Furthermore, you’ll be able to get more done when you study.
Many of these skills, for example, note-taking, revision skills and critical reading, help you in your studies and in your career. When you develop these skills, it will be easier for you to complete your tasks with less stress.
11. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a relaxation technique commonly used by doctors to offer relief to patients suffering from certain pains. For example, headaches, high blood pressure, and cancer pain. Edmund Jacobson discovered the PMR technique in the 1930s. So what is PMR all about?
Basically, the technique is based on the proposition that mental calmness is the outcome of physical relaxation. The technique involves tensing and relaxing all the muscles in your body at a time until you feel relaxed. It’s recommended that you start with the muscles from your lower extremities and finish with the face, abdomen, and chest.
You can practice PMR before you go to sleep, during tests, and even in times when you feel you’re under pressure. This technique not only helps you lower stress or anxiety but also relieves insomnia.
12. Listen to Music
A study by the American Psychological Association shows that music has the power to treat pain and lower stress. Listening to music has long been recognized as an effective type of therapy that gives physical and emotional relief. Therefore, if you’re looking for a convenient stress reliever, try music.
You can listen to classical music when studying or play an upbeat song to keep you awake. You can also wind down from a hectic day while listening to some slow melodies.
13. Eat a Healthy Diet
Most people are unaware of the significant number of studies associating healthy foods with increased intellectual ability. For instance, a 2019 review of 56 studies identified an association between high-intake of healthy foods like olive oil, fish, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, nuts, and legumes with a reduced risk of depression among high school students.
A healthy diet can help you beat stress and give you the energy you nee to study. It can also prevent you from experiencing symptoms of stress like mood swings, headaches, dizziness, etc.
14. Use Positive Thinking and Aspirations
Did you know that positive thinkers are likely to experience better circumstances in life partly because of their mindset? The truth is that the habit of being optimistic and maintaining a mindset of positive thinking can lead to better grades, improved health, and better relationships.
You can train your brain to engage in more positive thinking through using affirmations. Instead of saying, “I’ll never be able to pass this course. It’s too challenging.” You can say, “With a good study plan, I’m sure I’ll ace this course.”
Affirmations are positive statements that help you avoid negative self-sabotaging thoughts. When you repeat them often and believe in them, you’ll start making positive changes in your life. Moreover, affirmations are a great tool for stress management.
As the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine.” If you want to manage stress in your life, then one of the best ways to do it is to laugh. When you listen to a funny podcast or watch some funny videos online, you allow yourself to let out the stress through laughter. There’s mounting data that shows laughter has short-term and long-term benefits. Not only can it soothe tension, but in the long run, it improves your mood, boosts your immune system, and increases personal satisfaction.
It is important to look for way to life your own spirits. For instance, you can try laughter yoga (yes, it’s a thing). If you’re a pet lover, you can spend time with pets or create a Pinterest board with things that make you happy.
The Bottom Line
As a college student, it can be difficult to overcome the pressures of school life without regular student stress management practices. Therefore, the sooner you learn to handle stress, the easier it will be to cope with the challenges you face not just now but also throughout your life.