Stress is a normal part of life for everyone, but especially for college students. Most of us are juggling classes, studying, work, relationships, clubs or other activities, preparation for a career or graduate school, and any number of random tasks that come along with learning how to be an adult, all while trying to maintain some semblance of a healthy lifestyle. It can be exhausting to try to hold everything together.
Sometimes, stress can be beneficial. It motivates us to complete tasks and pursue our goals. If we never felt a limited amount of stress, most of us would fail to accomplish much of anything. However, stress can become so unhealthy that it inhibits clear thinking or ability to function, contributes to anxiety or depression, weakens the immune system, or worsens serious health problems.
Learning to manage stress helps in avoiding its negative effects. Whether you're just feeling a little stressed, or you feel like a rubber band about to snap, here are five ways that you can de-stress and get back on track.
This one seems counterintuitive. If I'm stressed because I have too much to accomplish in too little time, why add another task? It can be hard to talk yourself into going to the gym in the morning when you have so many other tasks that seem more important or at the end of a long day when you really just want to get home and knock out some homework. However, exercising really is important, and it's a great stress reliever. We're all familiar with the concept of the "endorphin rush," but aside from that, it's an excellent way to get your mind off of other things. Taking twenty or thirty minutes during the day to focus on simple physical tasks instead of a mid-term exam worth thirty percent of your grade or an essay that's given you writer's block for two days is a good way to alleviate some stress about it.
2. Make a to-do list.
I love to do this. Before you get overwhelmed thinking about all the things you have to get done in a day, take a minute and write them down. That way, you know exactly how many tasks you need to finish, you can plan your day(s) accordingly, you don't forget anything, and you get to feel the satisfaction of checking an item off when it's completed. Using a planner can be particularly helpful. Find one that you really like, or find a nice notebook or notepad that you will actually keep up with and like to look at.
3. Set specific homework and study times.
Give yourself a limited amount of time to work on homework, and focus only on the task at hand during that time. Set your phone or any other unnecessary distractions aside for that period of time, and dedicate it to only what you need to complete. You will likely finish assignments or studying faster if you're not tempted to check Instagram or text someone every five minutes. Take breaks so that you don't get burnt out, and then go back to the homework you need to work on for the rest of the time you allot yourself.
4. Talk to someone you care about.
Call your mom when you have a few minutes of free time during the day. Text your best friend and ask how her day is going. Send your sister or brother a funny video you found. Connecting with people you love is a great way to improve your mood and focus your attention on someone other than yourself.
5. Spend a few minutes each day to do something you enjoy.
If you love hanging out with your friends and family, that's great; but it's also perfectly fine to take some time each day for yourself. Spend a few minutes doing something that you don't have to do but that you want to do. Read something that's not assigned for class, watch one episode of your favorite show, scroll through Pinterest, draw or paint something, reorganize your bedroom, journal, or even just take a nap. Finding time to dedicate to engaging in an activity you enjoy will help take your mind off of all the tasks you don't want to do and help lessen the stress from constantly focusing on the less pleasant aspects of student life.