College is supposed to be some of the best four (or five, or six—just joking!) years of your life, right? Then how come sometimes you are just so stressed out? If you feel like your mental and emotional health is taking a beating, you are not alone. A lot of your peers could use some help balancing their newfound freedom and responsibility, while keeping the occasional smile on their faces. Read on for tips for college students on how to handle stress.
The facts about college students and stress
In case you thought maybe it was just you, have no fear—you aren’t the only one. Across the country, more and more college students say they are suffering from mental and emotional health issues. Tamar Lewin reported January 26, 2011, for The New York Times in “Record Level of Stress Found in College Freshman.”
The article quoted information from the annual survey of freshman, American Freshman. More than 200,000 incoming full-time students at four-year colleges were questioned and “the percentage of students rating themselves as ‘below average’ in emotional health rose.” In addition, the percentage of college students “who said their emotional health was above average fell to 52 percent. It was 64 percent in 1985.”
The economy, future college debt and job prospects were all factors affecting how college students feel. While the information is definitely worth paying attention to, the article notes that assessing emotional health can be challenging. As Lewin wrote, “to rate their own emotional health compared with that of others is hard to assess, since it requires them to come up with their own definition of emotional health, and to make judgments of how they compare with their peers.”
Stress and schoolwork
Certainly thinking about money problems and future career prospects is enough to get anybody down. But what about when your mental and emotional health starts to impact your schoolwork and grades? Clinical Psychiatry News featured an article, “College Students Cite Stress as Key Factor in Academic Performance,” in its December 2009 issue that offered additional insight, based on data from the National College Health Assessment, which surveyed more than 80,000 students on 106 campuses:
- “Almost 34% of students cited stress as a factor affecting academic performance”
- 26% cited sleep as the second most common psychological factor
- About 15% mentioned relationship difficulties
- Nearly 17% said the Internet was affecting their coursework
Obviously there are many things that can affect your performance in class. The key is figuring out which is your biggest issue and properly addressing it.
How you can decompress
If stress is causing you problems, what are some tips for college students on how to handle stress? The Woofound blog posted Hal Ashman’s article, “How Colleges Can Get Stressed Out Students to Relax,” on October 16, 2013, which shared some suggestions for students and colleges to consider:
- Increase counseling services on campus. Caseloads are growing and all too often students avoid seeking help. To encourage students to seek help, Ashman wrote, “Various forms of outreach, particularly peer-to-peer outreach, can make a real difference.”
- Involve the entire campus. Everyone should play a role in decreasing stress on campus. Getting some exercise can help, as can slowing down and spending more time on fewer things that you truly enjoy.
- Technology may not be helping. “Our endless digital surfing and skimming are lowering our capacity to concentrate and think critically, and making us feel (to varying extents) distracted, disconnected, and anxious,” Ashman wrote.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Try to learn to value more of your own individual growth, interests and needs—and not how you stack up to your roommate, classmates or friends.
Is stress ruining your college experience? Have you discovered any ways to decompress and slow down so you can still enjoy college? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.