The end of the semester is in sight, which means final exams are approaching and projects are due. Students may be feeling especially tired and stressed, maybe even irritated and sleep-deprived.
We all feel the effects of stress differently. Stress takes a toll on the body, as people may report muscle tension, headaches and upset stomach. Stress can also affect your mood in that you may become restless, anxious, or irritable. Additionally, stress can influence how you behave and interact with others. Some people may withdraw when they are feeling stressed, or others may turn to negative coping strategies, such as increasing their alcohol intake.
Since stress can negatively affect health and academic success, it is important to take time for self-care and learn healthy strategies for coping. This includes finding things that make you feel relaxed and happy, as well as managing your time. Below are some strategies for minimizing stress.
Since there are many stressful elements of being a college student, including academics, finances and relationships, it is important to recognize what is causing the most stress so students can become better equipped to deal with them. Pay attention to what stressors you are experiencing in life. Does your stress primarily come from tough coursework? Lack of time? Relationships? Pinpointing stressors can help you decide how to best manage them.
If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed with all you have to do, you may need to reevaluate your time management. A key to managing your time is to anticipate upcoming tasks, including assignments, exams and work shifts, as well as events and social gatherings, and prioritize what must be tackled first. Breaking assignments and tasks into sizeable (smaller) and manageable (realistic) goals can help you slowly chip away at some of those larger assignments. Making lists and using a planner can help solidify that information in your mind, and keep you on task when you may feel like procrastinating.
Another common cause of stress can include relationships — intimate, peer or professional. Do you feel like some of your relationships are more give than take? Do some of your relationships leave you feeling upset or tired, as compared to uplifted and supported? If so, it may be time to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is important to, and essential for, a healthy life because they let us take better care of ourselves. Boundaries are a normal and necessary part of self-care that allow you to prioritize your health and happiness. Stay tuned to your emotions and be sure you are saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the right commitments.
Stress impacts everyone, but how stress affects you is determined by how you respond to it. There are many healthy coping strategies that can help students feel better when they are overwhelmed, including physical activity, deep breathing and creativity. It is important to find an activity that you enjoy and that works for you.
Grab a friend and head to the Student Rec Center for a wellness class, or to visit the Climbing Center. Campus Rec also coordinates intramural and recreational sports, which are great ways to meet new people and be active. The Outdoor Programs has equipment to rent and low-cost trips planned to help you unplug and get outside.
There are also phone apps and websites that can help with breathing and other relaxation techniques such as Stress Check, Breathe2relax and Calm.com. These apps and sites facilitate deep breathing exercises and play relaxing music. Finally, utilize your creativity by coloring, journaling or play an instrument. Not only does creativity decrease stress, but it also improves brain function and lifts your mood.
If you find yourself struggling to balance everything in your life, take advantage of free and confidential services from the Counseling and Testing Center. Call (208) 885-6716, or stop by their office on the third floor of Mary E. Forney Hall, to make an appointment.
Avery Bolton is a peer health educator and can be reached at email@example.com