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College Students & Stress

Stress or Overstress?

Stress is a normal part of everyday life. Too much stress, however, begins to interfere with your functioning. Stress levels tend to build over time, and chronic high levels of stress can lead to a condition called overstress. When not managed well, overstress can result in physical illness as well as anxiety and depression.  

Stress Word Cloud

Therefore, learning how to manage your stress levels--preferably, before they get out of control--is vital for maintaining your health and overall well-being.

To determine if you are Overstressed, take this Stress QuizScores of 250 or greater are a sign of overstress, although those with a low stress tolerance may be overstressed at levels as low as 150.  For tips on managing stress, keep reading!

Tips for Managing Stress

Manage Your Time

  • Managing Your Time--If you are stressed because you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to get done, check out this page from Dartmouth.  You'll find a Time Management video, a "How Well Do You Plan" quiz, plus various documents and calendars with tips on creating a schedule.
  • Setting Goals and Priorities--The University of Florida Counseling Center will help you to identify your short- and long-term goals and then to apply these goals to your weekly scheduling; the issue of procrastination is addressed as well.

Change Your Actual Stress Load

  • Drop a class or reduce your work hours.
  • Don't take on any new or extra responsibilities.
  • Say "no" more often.
  • Postpone any major changes, such starting a new job, moving to a new apartment, etc.
  • Set both long- and short-term goals.
    • Exercise:  Try taking out a piece of paper and writing "I want..." at the top.  Brainstorm as many things you can think of to finish this sentence, whether short- or long-term.  Some example might include things such as "I want to get an A in Humm," "I want graduate on time," "I want to study abroad next year," "I want to have a better relationship with my sister," "I want to learn to drive stick," etc.  Once you are done your list, pick out 3-5 desires that are most important to you right now.  Then, begin to identify the steps you need to take to reach these goals.

Take Care of Your Physical Needs

  • Eat Well: Take a multivitamin and mineral preparation; eat more fruits and vegetables; limit alcohol intake.
  • Exercise Regularly: Aim for at least twenty minutes three times a week; ideally, include both aerobic and strength training.
  • Sleep Enough: Set regular sleep times; avoid rapid time changes to your sleep schedule; and sleep 7-8 hours per night.
  • Visit our Hot Topics! page for more on each of the above issues; also, for a quick reminder on taking care of your basic physical needs and other easy strategies you can try to get things back on track, print out our Self-Care Strategies handout, which offers the "RESPECT" technique.

Engage in a Relaxation Activity

  • Exercise regularly, even just walks around campus.
  • Read something just for fun (i.e., NOT schoolwork!).
  • Take a time out to do a short, fun activity, such as Draw a Stickman.Just Breathe
  • Engage in arts and crafts or other hobbies.
  • Listen to music, sing, or go dancing.
  • Practice yoga and/or meditation (for help getting started with meditation, check out the books and CDs available to be borrowed from the Counseling Services Lending Library or download the Resource List provided below).
  • Try a basic breathing strategy: sitting in a comfortable position, count "one" to yourself as you exhale. The next time you exhale, count "two," and so on up to "five." Then begin a new cycle, never counting higher than "five" and counting only when you exhale. Try to do for 10 minutes.  Or, try diaphragmatic (deep) breathing--review this handout, Just BREATHE!
  • Use an app for that!  These free apps include learning diaphragmatic breathing, qi gong meditation, a "relax completely" hypnosis/meditation session, and more!

Utilize Health & Counseling Resources

Go on a Stress Recess!

  • The Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas at Austin offers Stress Recess: Stress Management and Reduction, a program designed for college students.  On their pages, you will find videos to guide you through relaxation strategies, tips on stopping stress both now and in the future, and countless other helpful techniques.

Get More Information

  • Check out these past editions of the "Healthy Happenings from the Healthguards" newsletters:  Stress, Anxiety, and Nerves...Oh my! and The Stress Issue.
  • Mindfulness/Meditation Resource List--Download our PDF file with various resources on how to get started with meditation.
  • College Students and offers additional information on recognizing warning signs and proactive stress management.
  • Audio Relaxation Exercises--If you are one of those people who say, "I just can't relax," click on this link now!  Hobart and William Smith Colleges offer two audio relaxation exercises; you can use them directly from their web site or download as MP3 files put on your iPod and use any time you need them.  Ithaca College offers MP3 files as well, including ones designed for both reducing stress and improving sleep.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation--More relaxation!  Learn how to fully relax with this 10-minute YouTube video.
  • Finally, don't forget Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds!  These programs, offered through GOLD and facilitated by Health & Counseling professional staff members, are offered frequently throughout the academic year, and many focus on stress mangement and related issues.

If you think your stress may be causing anxiety, panic, depression, or other related problems, check out the Counseling Services page on Common Mental Health Issues.

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