College is a stressful time for many students, regardless of whether they’re living on campus and attending classes full-time or studying online while working at another job. Whether you’re seeking an undergraduate degree in mathematics or a masters in dispute resolution, anxiety is a normal thing to experience no matter what you’re studying. However, extreme anxiety can prove crippling during college, as it may cause you to fall behind in your studies and it could even affect your health. So do your best to take care of yourself by following these five tips to keep the stress at bay.
1. See a Counselor
College students are fortunate in that most have access to free mental health counseling regardless of financial need. Anxiety and stress are some of the most common reasons college students seek help. Make an appointment today.
Don’t be nervous. Your counselor will keep the meetings confidential and will continue to meet with you until you both feel that there’s been improvement. The counselor will act not only as someone to whom you can vent about your stresses without fear of judgment, but someone who can also give you the tools you need to take control of your life.
2. Stay Organized
Scrambling to finish projects at the last minute, oversleeping, and missing classes, and pulling all-night study sessions may seem like “typical” college student behavior; but if it happens to you too often, it can exacerbate your feelings of stress and anxiety.
Take organization seriously. Prioritize getting your work done over being social, go to bed early, and study throughout the semester, so you’ll feel less overwhelmed as deadlines and exams approach. Use a journal or organizer software on your computer, tablet, or Smartphone to set reminders.
3. Adjust Your Course Load
If you’re overwhelmed by your courses and your grades are slipping, you might be taking too many classes at once. It’s better to be able to put all your effort into a smaller number of classes than to try to cram in more than you can handle. See if you can drop to part-time status or withdraw from a class or two and still remain full-time. You can always add more in future semesters if you feel like you can handle it.
On the other hand, you might be taking too few courses. If you’re a part-time student juggling a job and family responsibilities with an occasional class, you might not have enough drive to give your schoolwork the attention it deserves. If possible, cut back on work and add more classes each semester, so you can get used to making school a priority.
4. Exercise and Eat Well
No matter the cause of your stress, regular exercise and a healthy diet will make you feel better. Eating healthy food provides you with more energy, which will improve your brainpower for studying. Exercise improves your stamina and releases feel-good endorphins into your body. Start small and discuss an appropriate diet and exercise plan with your physician.
If you think you’re too anxious to work out or you don’t have time, force yourself to do it, even for just 10 minutes a day. Bit by bit, you’ll start to want to work out for longer periods.
5. Focus on the Now
Whether it’s one of the causes of your anxiety or it’s exacerbating your stress, thinking about the future more than necessary can prove an unproductive line of thought. It’s true that you want to have a basic idea of your career path so that you can select a major and prepare yourself for life after college. However, if you’re overwhelmed by the future or stressed because you don’t even know what the future holds, then take a time-out.
Focus on the now. Look at your future as something that’s far off, and break down your goals into small, manageable steps. Focus on getting through your courses this semester, or concentrate on getting an internship for your next break. Don’t worry yet about what will happen years from now. If you’re struggling to break your goals down into manageable steps, speak with an academic advisor on campus.
Whether you’re aiming for an information technology management degree or a degree in art, you’re going to experience times of stress. However, if your anxiety is getting the best of you, it’s time to take action. Make use of free counselors on campus, keep yourself organized, change your course load if necessary, exercise and eat well, and focus on the present more than the unknown possibilities of the future.
About the Author
Karina Markie is a contributing writer and mental health counselor at a liberal arts college. During her undergraduate years, she led a peer support group for those experiencing stress and anxiety.