It’s no secret that college students are stressed. In the American College Health Association’s 2015 National College Health Assessment summary, 85.6% of those in the assessment reported feeling overwhelmed by everything they had to do, and 56.9% felt overwhelmed with anxiety. While they haven’t reported on 2016 yet, it’s unlikely that those numbers have gone down. In order to make 2017 a bit better, here are a few easy ways you can help alleviate some stress in your life.
1. Get a planner.
As college students, it seems nearly impossible to find the time or money to eat right, sleep well and work out regularly. If this was a problem for you in 2016, try setting a schedule in stone (or in a planner) in 2017 as a coping technique. This might even help you prevent stress. Try planning healthy meals, study sessions and even Netflix breaks, for instance. As for sleeping better, that should come on its own if you set your schedule well. If the schedule works for you, do your best to add in a workout as often as you can. If your body feels better, so does your mind. I personally love bullet-journaling because it gives me the option to personalize everything on each page. I can even include a budget (that I sometimes try to follow), and that helps prevent stress as well.
2. Take a step back from drinking caffeine or alcohol.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, caffeine and alcohol actually aggravate anxiety and stress. At the end of it all, I know asking college students to avoid caffeine or alcohol might seem silly, but if you’re feeling extraordinarily stressed, try it as a coping skill. It doesn’t need to be a permanent change, but it could really help during those midterm weeks.
3. Give yourself permission to take a break.
That’s right. Cope with stress by walking away from what’s stressing you out. Of course, you can’t do that indefinitely. But according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, stepping away and doing something else can clear your head. Sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to be able to come back to a project or an assignment. So don’t just flip through Twitter for 10 minutes unexpectedly and feel bad about it, tell yourself, “I am going to think about something other than what is stressing me out right now, and that is good for me.”
4. Think of calmer times, and do what you know makes you happy.
"I recently made a dramatic change in my life and moved six hours away from home to Minneapolis, and when I get super homesick and stressed out I get myself a Starbucks coffee, take a bath with a lush bath bomb and turn on some Michael Bublé. It reminds me of home, and my mom, and carefree times.” — Caroline Radosta, Aveda Institute of Minneapolis
5. Rethink how you talk to yourself.
As the saying goes, you are your own worst critic. That’s not always bad, as it can push you to do your best work. However, it can also be a way to trigger stress. A way to help that is to rethink how you communicate with yourself. As the American Heart Association says, instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” think, “I’ll do the best I can.” Change, “Everything is going wrong,” to, “I can handle things if I take one step at a time.” Simple adjustments like this may seem small, but over time they can have a big effect.
6. Learn that it is OK to say no to things.
“In the past, I used to morph my schedule to other people. I relied on others to make decisions for me. And although decision making and making plans isn't always fun, learning to say no to people has helped me gain control of my life. I know I can say no to other people without feeling an obligation. This has given me an opportunity to organize my schedule around prioritizing my school work. Making sure that I study several days before a quiz or exam.” — Claudia Cortes-Reyes, University of Nebraska at Omaha
7. Get more involved in your community.
It’s a productive way to take a break, and it’s good for those around you. Volunteering is especially wonderful. Not only do those you volunteer for benefit, but so do you. Some even say that helping others is the key to happiness. Plus, there are countless ways to volunteer. If you love animals, shelters and the humane society are always looking for volunteers. The food bank and soup kitchens are great places to volunteer when you only have a few days a year available, just sign up! Helping others in need might put your life in perspective, as well. Life is stressful, but helping others with their stressors can help you with yours.
8. Look into aromatherapy.
The smell of lavender has been so helpful in calming my anxiety throughout my life that I have the scent in the form of body mists, bouquets and candles. It wasn't until recently that I tried out actual essential oil aromatherapy though, and I'm beyond happy I did. It's definitely going to be one of my new coping skills to bring into 2017. As college kids, the best stress relief is the kind that requires minimal effort (and money) as that could cause even more stress. If you have a busy schedule, turning on an aromatherapy diffuser and then returning to studying could be time efficient and good for self-care.
9. Set realistic goals, and go for them!
“I find it's often not the goal you need to worry about, but committing yourself to the long term steps required to complete said goal. It's easy to procrastinate on a month long project, but it's not easy to get it done in a week. In both scenarios you complete the project, and technically you complete your goal, but doing it in a week is so much more stressful than stretching it out. Fortunately, in 2016 we have a virtually infinite amount of tools and programs to help us stick to a reasonable homework schedule. I find myself a constant victim to procrastination, and that’s definitely one of my resolutions for 2017.” — Ryker Bridge, University of Nebraska at Omaha
There’s no question that taking care of yourself and your mental state helps you in school. While there’s no way to completely eliminate stress or make school feel like a breeze, there’s always a way to make things better for yourself. Whether it’s a quick nap every Wednesday between classes or volunteering every month with the humane society, 2017 will be a better year if you find the best coping skills for you.
Lead Image Credit: Em Brandon via Instagram