Stress is one of the most difficult obstacles to maneuver throughout adulthood, and college life

is often the first head-on lesson in managing it. Unfortunately, most of us struggle unremittingly

with stress before learning how to cope.


In fact, according to the 2015 National College Health Assessment, although only 30% of

students report that stress negatively affected their year, an entire 85% reported feeling

completely overwhelmed at least once by everything on their plate during the school year.

It’s tiresome to keep your head above water with the constant onslaught of academic

workload, erratic sleep habits, and social activities. It often feels like there are just not enough

hours in the day.


First of all, one of the best tools you can harness in terms of dealing with these individual

stressors is learning how to differentiate and control each of these areas.


School Work. Let’s start with the most important. Let’s face the facts: there’s nothing you can

do about how much of a workload you will be dealt, but there’s everything you can do to

manage it wisely.


First step: get organized. Spend time at the beginning of the semester, and I mean first week of

classes, to write out your detailed weekly schedule for the entire semester and post it in a

place when you can review every day. The fastest way to get disorganized is by forgetting small

assignments, reading checks, and other items that might fall by the wayside next to important

exams and presentations.


Next, use whatever tools necessary to stay prepared. Take excessive notes, use sticky notes

as you read, and jot down points that you have questions about. Under the weight of a heavy

course load, you never know what little ideas might slip your mind, and you don’t want to wait

for your own memory to bite you in the back later on.


Lastly, learn how to manage your time every day. What can you get done during that hour long

break at 11:00 am every day? How should you divide up your evening after classes are over?

Are you willing to dedicate an early Saturday morning to get some extra work off your plate?


Sleep Habits. This is one area that often gets completely undermined during college life, yet it

is one of the most crucial things to keep on track. Students often skip out on adequate sleep in

order to finish the last of their schoolwork, but this is a nasty habit that needs to be broken.

According to the American Psychological Association, adults who sleep fewer than 8 hours

a night report more stress than those who sleep more than 8 hours.


Put this into perspective. Is that extra hour working or studying really helping you in the long

run? In fact, according to the same study, adults who sleep less than 8 hours also report

feeling more irritable, overwhelmed, impatient, and lacking motivation.


The trick to getting all 8 hours? Time management. Don’t postpone studying or writing that

essay until the last night. Focus on how you spend your free time—sleeping for an extra hour

instead of watching Netflix for an hour will benefit you tenfold in the long run.


Non-Academic Activities. It’s equally important to let yourself unwind with friends when the

time is right. College is all about learning the work-life balance that works best for you, and

that’s a lesson that will follow you throughout your life. Again, time management is your best

tool here. Allowing yourself to get happy hour with your friends is an amazing method of

relaxation, but letting happy hour turn into late night drinks on a Tuesday might not be your

best decision.


Joining clubs and sports teams are awesome ways to expand your social circle while

effectively mastering your time management at the same time. Going out and drinking with

your buddies on the weekend is also an okay method of de-stressing, but only in a controlled

manner. Over-drinking is often a sign of self-medicating your stress levels, and is not a healthy

way to balance any aspect of your life. Keep in mind that drinking negatively affects your ability

to sleep soundly—and let’s not forget the domino effect of unhealthy sleep and stress levels.

Meditation is another under-appreciated tool to battle stress levels. A study published in JAMA

Internal Medicine showed that mindful meditation eased feelings of anxiety, depression, and

pain, even in just 10 minute durations.


Exercise works in a similar way. Take an hour break to go for a jog in the mountains, or take a

free yoga class at your college fitness center. You’ll walk away feeling refreshed, productive,

and nourished.


Regardless, don’t spend your entire college career slaving away in the library. Take time to

decompress and enjoy yourself with friends. College is supposed to be one of the best times of

your life; don’t let it slip you by.

Sarah grew up outside of Boston and made one of her best life decisions to move to Colorado at the age of 18 to pursue both a degree in Psychology and Creative Writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder. After falling in love with the mountains, the music scene, and the lively culture, it was clear there would be no return to the East. Sarah is an avid writer and reader of poetry and short fiction, and is working towards a career in journalism. She has both a Husky mix and a kitten (hence the incessant amount of animal hair stuck to her at all times), and in her free time, is either exploring the vast mountains with her fur baby, or planning the next Western road trip.