Students experience so much pressure – from school deadlines, exams, assignments, research, activities, and unrealistic expectations – that their mental health is already at stake. And so, student stress management is vital as this prevents them from experiencing the physical and mental side effects of constant tension.
The American Institute of Stress revealed that four out of five college students struggle with regular stress. When this stays unchecked, it leads to severe problems in concentrating, energy exhaustion, appetite changes, weak immune system, and troubled periods of sleep.
Kate Aitchison, counseling and mental health team manager at Newcastle University explained that stress is normal. And that can be helpful and productive when still controlled due to the adrenaline that the body produces. The difficulty happens when this turns out to be distress, that’s when it becomes detrimental to the body. Thus, you must do something about this while you still can.
What are the causes of student stress
Teenage and college years can be both challenging and fulfilling. With adrenaline and hormones all over the place during these periods, student stress is inevitable. School life can be difficult if you don’t understand what makes you feel like you’re pressed in every direction.
Here are some of the common reasons for student stress:
Tuition, Finances, Budget
Students are pressured from loans, bills, payments, and fees for course materials, requirements, and projects. Not everyone is privileged to handle the financial aspect of their studies without the struggles.
Depression and anxiety
For students who are in boarding school, you may be feeling homesick at times which can lead to depression. If you’re anxious about being alone or away from family, that can add stress especially if you’re still finding your footing to living independently.
Dependency on drugs and substance abuse
High school and college students get easily swayed by peer pressure. If you’re not careful who you’re hanging out with, you may be influenced to misuse substances that are harmful to you. Worse, if you keep the bad company of schoolmates, you may be exposed to drug use.
Peer and family pressure
While in school, students may be involved in romantic relationships that could be toxic and stressful for some. Sometimes, there are emergencies, death, or problems at home that may add stress to students. You need to be able to manage all these well so your grades won’t be affected. In some cases, cohabiting with roommates and socializing with strangers and different personalities in school can be stressful, too.
Schedule conflicts, coursework and exams
Due to a tight schedule in high schools and universities, students also feel stressed with the demands of school work. For instance, there are required book readings that you need to complete only for a few weeks. In the meantime, you need to research for another coursework while you need to set aside time to review for upcoming exams. If you don’t plan your schedule ahead of time, this can add a lot of stress to you.
Top stress management techniques
There are three (3) main areas you should understand to respond to student stress more positively. These are self-care, time management, and extrinsic factors affecting your behavior and habits.
Taking care of your physical body is the first step in managing student stress. You are in the prime of your life during your high school and college years. So, it may sometimes feel like you have the energy to do anything and everything under the sun. However, your body can only do so much. When overworked and hyperactive, you will feel weak and drained, too.
How you treat your physical body will have rippling effects in other areas in your life such as emotionally and mentally. Hence, keep yourself in check, be well-rested, and have a good headspace whenever you possibly can.
An erratic sleep schedule can be worrisome to students because it might affect their memory and focus. However busy your schedule gets, make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Sleep deprivation may result in disorientation, reduced levels of attention, and poor learning abilities, consequently, leading to student stress.
2. Healthy and balanced diet
Are you one of those who often skip meals because you are cramming to do your projects in school? Or, maybe you lose track of mealtime while reviewing for upcoming exams, for example. Energy bars are good for studying. However, too much coffee and energy drinks can be dangerous. Hydrate. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Sometimes, you settle for cheap, convenient food. But, eating such can be counterproductive because they don’t have the nutrition your body needs. High-fat foods, for instance, make you more sluggish and crave more unhealthy food which does no good for your brain.
3. Move around and exercise
Contrary to what others believe, exercise can energize you. This is one of the best techniques to manage student stress because working out releases endorphins – the happy hormones. These hormones boost your energy and improve your mood, thereby, reducing stress. Walking around campus for a few minutes each day is good for your heart and lungs. It’s a great way to stay fit and lose those extra pounds away, too! Alternatively, you can join online workout classes so you are still active in the comforts of your own home.
Whenever you’re feeling stressed, pause whatever it is that you’re doing even for a few minutes. Relaxing your mind, eyes, and other senses can lower your adrenaline and cortisol levels – the hormones responsible for stress. When needed, you can also listen to calming music (nature sounds playlist in Spotify are great!). Another technique is to be consciously aware of your breathing which helps you focus and be present wherever you are.
Stress, caused by concerns around time, is common to students because of the highly demanding environment in school. There seem to be so many things that need to be accomplished all the time, right? It’s like your workload and coursework keep increasing no matter how hardworking you are.
To alleviate student stress involving time, you need to learn how to manage time. Here are a few stress-free techniques:
5. Keep a planner to stay organized
Manage your time by organizing your tasks hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly. It always helps to keep a record of your schedule. That way, you can visibly check what you need to do now and what can be done later. It will help you stay on top of your priorities, too. To reduce student stress, the 80-20 Pareto principle can help you work smarter. Spend more energy and time on your tasks that will produce more favorable results!
6. Avoid procrastination
Do you get easily distracted by a friend’s party invite or a new episode of the Netflix series you’re following? If you do, it means putting off doing your assignment for later, which may cause sleepless nights even. Procrastinating will put a dent in your school performance because you’re limiting the amount of time you would otherwise give to an important task. It teaches you to have discipline in setting aside more time studying, reviewing, and preparing for what’s required from you.
7. Learn an effective study method
You can take control of the way you study and navigate school life to avoid student stress. How? Find a study method that works for you. It may involve setting up your study desk in your room or writing down important reminders in sticky notes on your wall. You are managing your time better when you develop an effective study method. It helps you remember and focus on your study materials better.
Responding to extrinsic factors affecting behavior and habits
The first four (4) techniques under self-care and the next three (3) tips under time management wouldn’t be complete without understanding extrinsic factors that often cause student stress. You can avoid a lot of stress when you plan or you can adapt and change your stressful situation to something better.
8. Know your stressors
Identify what triggers stress for you and evaluate how you can change your behavior and/or habits around it. For example, does it stress you out when you have unexpected visitors? If so, you can schedule them to after-study hours. Tell your friends or family ahead of time to accept your deliveries on your behalf, if you need to. When pressed for time reviewing for exams, you can gamify your study time by answering questions more quickly like a quiz show. You can find an outlet such as dancing around the room whenever you get the correct answers as a reward to yourself. It can be several different things and can be unique for different people. So, stay more in tune with yourself and what issues tick you off that can add to your stress.
9. Manage your expectations and set realistic ones
Examine your values and actions so you can accept what your realistic goals are. You only have one life and you will inevitably make mistakes every once in a while. You also have to understand that you can’t be 100% all the time. It’s healthy to choose tasks and activities you can do to avoid unnecessary student stress and expectations from others.
10. Have an accountability partner or join an accountability group.
Doing research projects can be a lot better when you are working with someone you can trust. Or, bounce ideas off a friend or your roommate to stimulate your brain further and see another person’s perspective. Ask for help because everyone needs a support system. Stress management often involves relationships and socializing. Join review groups or study sessions when it fits your schedule. Meeting new friends can be beneficial to your mental health.
Importance of stress management for students
There are physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms that typically show among college students indicative of stress. They can lead to adverse effects greatly affecting your academic performance.
Stress management can be your lifeline to situations where your body feels flying or fighting as a response. If you aren’t aware of what triggers student stress, it may result in long-term health problems. When negatively impacting situations recur, stress manifests in the form of migraines, profuse sweating, tension headaches, or shortness of breath. More stressful situations that occur repeatedly over longer periods may even cause weight gain/loss, memory degradation, and an overall negative outlook in life.
Learning these stress management techniques for students may help avoid the development of mental, physical, and emotional health conditions. Knowing where you are and what ticks you is the first step. Adapting to situations and accepting what you can’t control will be your next steps.
Many schools offer health services to students which are highly recommended especially if your stress levels are through the roof. Don’t be afraid to seek help because school life should be fun and a learning experience altogether. Get the treatment or speak to someone you trust at the first sign of student stress.
You can navigate through your high school and/or college education much better when you open yourself up. You don’t have to feel alone or do things on your own. Remember that these times of your life prepare you for the “real world.” How you respond to stress in school will be ingrained in you when you land your first corporate job or start your own business.
Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute supports you in having a quality life with a length of life. Though stress is unavoidable, there are ways you can overcome them. These stressful situations can build character as you welcome these challenges through these techniques.