How to Cope With Stress and Anxiety in College: Tips and Resources

How to Cope With Stress and Anxiety in College: Tips and Resources

How to Cope With Stress and Anxiety in College: Tips and Resources banner

Going to college is a pivotal life event for many students—and with any major life change comes the potential for stress, anxiety, and other challenges. In fact, according to a 2023 Gallup poll, 66% of college students surveyed reported feeling a great deal of stress in their everyday lives. Meanwhile, up to 61% of American college students who seek counseling report feelings of anxiety.

Whether you are preparing to start school or already in the middle of your studies, all students should familiarize themselves with some practical stress management and mental wellness tips.

Understanding Stress and Anxiety in College Life

Unfortunately, stress and anxiety can have a real impact on the student experience and their academic performance in college.

The Impact of Anxiety on Academic Performance and Social Life

When students suffer from anxiety, they may have a harder time focusing on their studies because their minds are overrun with worries and concerns. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on academic performance and result in poor grades. In some cases, anxiety may become so severe that students have a hard time attending classes.

Anxiety can also make it difficult to meet friends in college, especially if it presents as social anxiety. This could lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, creating a perpetual cycle that detracts from the experience.

The Beginner’s Guide to Managing College Stress

The good news? No matter where you are in your college journey, there are some basic steps you can take to better manage your stress and set yourself up for success.

Essential Tools and Resources for Stress Management

Start by taking inventory of the tools and resources available to you. If you already have an established therapist or counselor, it’s wise to continue seeing them regularly. Be sure to also consider any mental health resources or support that may be offered by your school directly, such as student support groups or counseling services on campus.

Preparing Your Mindset for a Stress-Managed College Experience

For incoming college students, try to prepare your mindset for the coming years. Rather than assuming you’ll breeze through your college education with ease, accept the real possibility that college may be stressful and develop an actionable game plan to manage that stress.

Identifying Common Stressors for College Students

Another key part of managing stress and staying mentally fit while in college is simply being able to identify the root cause of your stress, anxiety, or other issues. Below are examples of the most common stressors among college students.

Financial Stressors

A college education can be expensive, so if you have to take out student loans or are working a job to help pay for school, this can add more stress to your plate. Plus, you might not have a lot of money left over to pay for your everyday costs of living, such as housing and food.

Academic Stressors

Understandably, academic performance is another core cause of stress among college students. You may be worried about an upcoming assignment deadline, a presentation in front of your class, or an exam that will have a major impact on your grades.

Work-Life Balance

If you are working a job while in school, maintaining some semblance of work-life balance might present a challenge. Even if you’re not working a part-time job during college, simply balancing the demands of your schoolwork with your personal life and hobbies can introduce stress.

Step-by-Step Guide to Coping With Stress and Anxiety

Looking for help managing stress and handling anxiety as a college student? Following these steps can be a great place to start.

Step 1: Recognize Your Stress Triggers

You can’t expect to effectively manage stress if you don’t know what’s causing it, so start by trying to pinpoint the root of your issues. Does your stress tend to come more from worrying about finances? Concerned about your academic performance? Once you know your triggers, you can create a game plan to work through them.

Step 2: Develop a Personalized Stress Management Plan

Next, it’s time to build your own customized stress management plan. Ideally, this plan will revolve around avoiding or overcoming the triggers causing you stress in the first place. If you’re worried about money while in school, for example, you might consider taking out additional student loans to help you cover expenses and work less.

Step 3: Implement Time Management Techniques

Substantial stress among college students boils down to having too much to do and not enough time to do it. This is where following some basic time management strategies can make all the difference. Consider implementing the tried-and-true Pomodoro technique or even the Eisenhower Matrix to maximize your time and minimize stress.

Step 4: Engage in Physical Activities and Mindfulness Practices

Physical activity and exercise can also be extremely effective in managing stress, reducing anxiety, and building self-confidence, so try to find some kind of physical activity you genuinely enjoy. This could be anything from daily yoga to hitting the gym for some weight-lifting. This, along with basic mindfulness and meditation practices, can work wonders for your mental health.

Step 5: Seek Support From Campus Resources and Peer Groups

Finally, take advantage of the support services and resources in place to help you succeed. Many schools these days have offerings like group counseling, therapy, and other mental health services to help students manage stress and get help when they need it.

Practical Tips for Everyday Stress Relief

In addition to having a game plan for managing stress, there are some small yet practical ways you can go about dealing with stress while in school.

Incorporating Relaxation Techniques Into Your Daily Routine

Although it may seem counterintuitive to schedule relaxation into your daily schedule, it is a necessity for numerous college students. For instance, you could download a guided meditation app and spend at least 10 minutes with it at the same time each day. This might be the first thing when you wake up, in the middle of your day, or before bed.

The Role of Nutrition and Sleep in Stress Reduction

As tempting as it may be to reach for convenience meals and snacks while you’re busy studying, you must make an effort to prioritize your nutrition. Healthy snacks and proper, balanced meals will fuel your body and mind and help you better deal with stress. Students should especially not underestimate the importance of quality sleep and proper nutrition when it comes to managing stress. According to a 2023 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, most college students and young adults need anywhere from eight to 10 hours of sleep to function at their best. Furthermore, failing to get enough sleep can have a negative impact on both mental health and academic performance—with inadequate average hours of sleep predicting a decrease in end-of-semester grade point average (and vice versa).

Leveraging Campus Resources for Mental Health Support

There is no overstating the value of campus resources to get the mental health support you need, so be sure to research what your school provides and how to take advantage of it.

Navigating Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Most colleges have some form of psychological services or counseling programs that are specifically designed with student in mind. Take time to familiarize yourself with these services and how to get assistance when needed.

Joining Student Support Groups and Wellness Programs

Many colleges and college communities offer student support groups, wellness programs, and other platforms to help college students with their mental health as well. Getting involved in one of these programs can be an excellent way to meet like-minded individuals who are facing similar struggles as you.

Building a Supportive Network

At the end of the day, your ability to overcome the mental challenges of college life boils down to having the right support network in place; this includes not just support from your school but also from your peers, family and friends.

Connecting With Mentors and Peers for Emotional Support

Leaning on emotional support within your community is invaluable as a college student. It’s crucial to build your own circle of friends and make the effort to connect with mentors and peers for the support you need.

What Are the First Signs of Excessive Stress in College Students?

All college students should be aware of the most common and early signs of stress so they can act accordingly. This includes having difficulty sleeping, losing your appetite, and struggling to focus. Students suffering from excessive stress may experience a drop in their grades, too.

How Can I Balance My Academic and Social Life to Reduce Anxiety?

Finding a balance between school and life is one of the most common issues with which college students struggle. Time management strategies can go a long way in ensuring students have time to meet their obligations while still having some time to do the things they enjoy. Additionally, making sure you’re not over-scheduled with too many classes can help you balance your academic and social lives more effectively.

Take Control of Your Mental Health and Well-Being While in School

Stress management for college students is a critical topic, particularly as more students struggle with mental health disorders and high levels of stress in their everyday lives. With these tips in mind, you can put your best self forward and strive for your goals while knowing when to seek help if you need it.

Choosing a school with a supportive network and plenty of resources for students can also make all the difference in your college experience, so you might consider pursuing an online education for a more flexible format with fewer stressors. At Johnson & Wales University, we offer a wide range of both online undergraduate degrees and online graduate degrees to suit your needs—so don’t hesitate to request more info from JWU today, call 855-JWU-1881 or email [email protected] to learn more information.

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