From balancing academics, work and a social life to facing problems with family and relationships, stress is an ever-present factor for college students, but we can’t let it control our lives.
According to the Spring 2017 National College Health Assessment, 87 percent of students surveyed reported that they felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past 12 months, and 52.2 percent of these students said this feeling happened in the last month.
From the same survey, 30.6 percent of students said that they felt stress negatively affected their academic performance.
First-year students are particularly susceptible to stress because they’re in a new environment and might be doing things on their own for the first time.
A 2015 national survey by the JED Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the mental health of teens and young adults, found that 50 percent of first-year college students felt stressed most or all the time. Out of the students surveyed, 87 percent felt that their high schools didn’t do an adequate job of adjusting them emotionally to college.
According to an article by Livestrong.com, the source of student stress can be a mix of a few things (such as finances, relationships, etc.) but a large part of stress comes from grades.
Ben Prohl, a senior religion major, says his stress comes from “the unknown of whether [he’s] going to fail or not.”
From finals to projects and papers, it seems like your grade in a class usually relies heavily on grades close to the end of the semester, and sometimes these due dates can sneak up on you.
“I think I’m ahead on everything buy as the semester comes to an end I realize how much I’ve put off…I need better time management skills,” said Annie Davis, a first year professional and creative writing major.
The numbers make it obvious: stress is a persistent feeling for college students, and that makes sense. My mind is constantly focusing on the next due date or worrying about upcoming projects, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. College makes it almost impossible to live stress-free, and self-care seems to fall by the wayside in the midst of project deadlines and overdue papers.
Percentages are only half the story, though. In an article from last semester, I talked about how stress can negatively affect your immune system; it can also affect your ability to sleep and your sex drive, and cause increased depression.
Although stress affects everyone a little differently, feeling overwhelmed by work seems to make it harder for me to finish my projects and papers. Stress causes a vicious cycle of being overwhelmed but simultaneously not being able to get work done.
The sad truth is that stress is unavoidable, and it doesn’t stop when you get out of college. But you have to take care of yourself.
Here are three things I do to avoid stress or alleviate some of the symptoms:
Take some time to yourself when you need to: This one probably seems obvious, but everyone needs to hear it. “Me time” takes a back seat during the end of the semester, but it shouldn’t. Take a bubble bath, drink some tea, do whatever makes you feel better, because your mental health is much more important than anything you’re doing in class, period.
Talk to your professors: Professors were undergraduate students once, so most of them will know what you’re going through, and they’ll probably sympathize. Even if the source of your stress is procrastination, be honest and express that to your professors. They might even give you an extension on a paper or project if you need it.
Make to-do lists: This one has helped me so much over the past year. One of the reasons I’m so stressed is because I’m a habitual procrastinator. Lists keep me accountable, and it makes me want to get things done. I like to write easy-to-accomplish things on my to do lists because it makes me feel good to cross them off.
Obviously, these things won’t help everyone, but they’re a start. The important thing is that we don’t forget to take care of ourselves when deadlines start to come up and stress starts to creep in.