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You CAN Cope with College Student Stress

College and University Blog - Resources, help, and insight for your college experience

Contrary to what movies lead many people to believe, the college experience involves much more than wild keg parties! From growing student loan debt and noisy roommates to 10-page term papers and midterm exams, college can be a pretty stressful time in your life. Toss in uncertainty about the future and a less than stellar job market, and it’s easy to see why college student stress is abundant.

In fact, a new study conducted by the American Psychological Association claims that today’s young adults, known as Millennials or Generation Y, report higher stress levels than all other living generations. According to the survey, appropriately titled Stress in America, nearly 40 percent of Millennials also report that their stress levels have increased over the past year.

Students are Stressed Out

This news and these statistics are nothing out of the ordinary. In 2008, the Associated Press reported that four out of 10 polled students said they “endure stress often” while nearly one in five felt stressed “all or most of the time.”

College freshmen’s self-evaluations of their emotional health dropped to then-record low levels in 2010, according to the annual The American Freshman: National Norms survey administered by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Informative Studies.

Stress is simply the body’s reaction to challenges and events. It can help us perform under pressure, such as in an emergency situation or before giving a speech, but long-term stress can eventually cause other health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can lead to headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease and more.

10 Common Stress Symptoms

Just as people react to stress in different ways, its signs and symptoms may also vary. According to The American Institute of Stress, 10 of the most common signs include:

1. Headaches

2. Neck and back pain

3. Tiredness and fatigue

4. Frequent colds or other infections

5. Rashes, itching, hives or goosebumps

6. Feelings of worry, anxiety or guilt

7. Insomnia or bad dreams

8. Feelings of worthlessness

9. Reduced productivity

10. Frequent use of OTC drugs

But Why?

But why does college, commonly touted as the best years of your life, cause so much pressure and anxiety? Impending student loan payments and the possibility of unemployment after graduation are cause for concern, but a large majority of students are dealing with these issues.

The Huffington Post offers a few other suggestions:

  • College is often just not as fun or exciting as many people think it will be. Sometimes it’s much harder than expected.
  • The opportunity to “find yourself” at college can be harder than you thought it would be. If you feel “different,” fitting in isn’t always easy.
  • Tuition, fees, room and board, and books are expensive…often leaving little money for necessities and a social life.
  • Independence and freedom from your parents sounded great…but dorm or apartment life can be loud, messy, and downright annoying at times.
  • Students who live at home and commute may be in the midst of family problems. Divorce, money troubles, emergencies, illness or a death in the family can cause stress on top of stress.

How to Help Manage Stress

Plenty of other reasons can lead to stress during college. While the following suggestions are no substitute for medical or professional advice, they may help you cope with your hectic life:

1. Get enough sleep. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing or even meditation can help, too. If you’re constantly tired, you’ll feel even worse about things.

2. Pay attention to what you eat. Surviving on Pop Tarts, candy, and mac and cheese isn’t the healthiest way to live.

3. Watch what you drink. A pot of coffee per day isn’t healthy. Neither is a 12-pack of beer. Limit caffeine as well as alcohol.

4. Exercise. Even if it’s just walking across campus a few times per day, you’ll start to feel better.

5. Accept the fact that you’re not perfect. No one is. Stop setting unrealistic goals that will cause problems or worry when you can’t meet them.

6. Talk to someone. Sometimes, getting things off your chest by telling someone about your problems – even if all you want them to do is listen rather than offer advice or their opinion – is enough to make you feel better. Speak with a trusted friend or family member, or visit your school’s health center to inquire about meeting with a counselor.

7. Stick to a schedule and stop procrastinating. Rushing or being late will cause even more problems.

Related Posts:

Working While Attending College

How to Relax During Final Exams

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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