How to Deal with Stress this Semester
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
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,
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.