How to Spot and Combat ‘Bad’ College Stress

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I get one more telegraph message today I’m gonna lose it!” OK, maybe he didn’t quite phrase it that way, but Honest Abe did have plenty to say about stress and time management. “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing,” he famously noted, and it’s wisdom that rings true nearly 150 years later for those struggling to find balance between healthy, motivating pressure and the mind-numbing strain that can leave you feeling helpless.

Here are five symptoms of an unhealthy stress level and tips for navigating the often chaotic pace of college life.

1. “Ugh! Not another cold!”

Because poor diet and sleep patterns go hand-in-hand with a hectic schedule, the effects of stress are often physical. Illness, exhaustion, and even the dreaded “freshman 15″ have all been linked to the rigors of college. No intense diet/workout routine necessary—just listen closely to your body. Falling asleep in class is a good sign that you should forego that football game for some serious R&R.

2. Splitting Time Three Ways

Striking a balance between work, social, and “me” time is a lifelong challenge, but you can start time-budgeting habits now in college that will pay off long after graduation. Whether you’re a wall calendar kind of person or the type who likes regular electronic reminders, set a schedule and stick to it. And as lame as it may sound, there’s no rule against “penciling in” things like coffee dates and laundry in addition to school assignments.

3. Call Your Mother!

For that matter, sometimes the best antidote for stress is talking to anyone—instructors, friends, counselors, or family members—with an interest in your well-being. Whether you need to vent about a particularly horrible class or share juicy celebrity gossip, pick up the phone when the daily grind becomes overwhelming.

4. Light at the End of the Tunnel

When pursuing an academic degree, it is perfectly normal to wonder if you chose the right path—and it’s even OK if those feelings occasionally propel you in a new direction. But don’t let stress trick you into giving up; think about the relief you feel at each semester’s end, and imagine how much sweeter that success will be on graduation day.

5. Keep It Simple

Sometimes the key to tackling a big project is to think of it as anything but. If you find yourself staring bleary-eyed at a blank screen, shift focus. Head to the library for resource materials. Read a chapter or watch a video for another class. Breaking down big assignments into smaller, more manageable components is a smart way to avoid getting burned out.


This article was written by Hannah Purnell

Hannah Purnell is a staff writer for Hannah writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.

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