The role of stress in students’ lives has emerged as a top subject of interest as more students have flooded higher education than ever before. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, around 30% of students report feeling depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed because of the sheer volume of stress in their lives and their inability to deal with it in a healthy manner.
The most commonly cited causes of stress for students include school/homework, extracurricular activities, social issues, trouble with interpersonal relationships, or struggling to adjust to the major lifestyle changes that accompany college — mostly issues that every person will face at one point or another. The key is learning how to manage that stress effectively and process it in a way that doesn’t negatively impact your life. Here are some stress management tips for the student who might feel a little overwhelmed:
It’s basic, but it works! Breathe in through your nose deep and slow, then let it out slower than you took it in.
Seriously, this isn’t some newfangled, New Age snake-oil meditation technique or something: This is a mixture of straight-up science and psychology. Biologically, our brains need oxygen to function. More oxygen equals the brain working better, and vice versa. If you’re freaking out about a calculus test and huffing and puffing and panting like a dog excited for a car ride, you’re depriving your brain of the oxygen it needs to clearly think through the situation. And psychologically, there’s just an awesome cathartic feeling that comes with purposefully exhaling negative energy and taking in fresh, clean air. It also forces you to take a couple of seconds to step back and re-approach whatever it is you’re stressed about.
This method is great for tests, presentations, or other immediately forthcoming stressful environments.
Speaking of catharsis (and heavy breathing, for that matter), exercise is another proven method to alleviate both physical and mental stress. The benefits are both short term and long term: Not only will you feel better almost immediately after, but if you consistently do it, it will almost undoubtedly decrease your level of stress on a day-in, day-out basis.
Get Enough Sleep
This one speaks for itself. Our bodies and brains need sleep to process the day’s events and to recharge for the next day. Anybody who’s ever been running on an empty tank of gas knows how stressful it is wondering if you’re going to make it to the next available station or end up stranded on the side of an interstate — and life is no different.
Seriously, call your parents or your cousins or your sister, or even just one of your homies. They’re the only thing that’s really important at the end of the day, and it’s always nice to be reminded of that when you’re dealing with the highly frustrating, low-stakes pettiness of everyday life. Even if they don’t actually have any good advice about your situation, they end up being an ear to vent to, or it can just become a good convo debating LeBron vs. Jordan. Regardless of the outcome, there’s a good chance you may feel better.
Avoid Stressful Situations
A really great way to avoid becoming too stressed out is to, well, don’t do stressful things! Obviously, this isn’t a realistic scenario 100% of the time, but people can get so caught up in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, they may not recognize they’re making their lives much harder than it needs to be. Practice some of the suggestions and it can go miles toward improving one’s ability to deal with the stress of life — stay organized, avoid procrastination, be disciplined, and know personal stressors and make an effort to approach them differently.
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