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College is an exciting time for students. It brings academic challenges, new social experiences, and inspiring work towards a new and exciting career. However, it also brings changes and additional work you did not experience in high school. These additional efforts and expectations can mean experiencing stress. You may feel stress as you think about schoolwork, financial pressures, social situations, or life after college. However, though these stressors may seem overwhelming at first, stress can be managed and channeled to have positive results. By developing skills to manage stress, you can learn to be more relaxed as you move through school.

What Is Stress?

Stress is the way your mind and body respond to demands from the surrounding environment. Sources for stress may be varied: financial issues, troubles with friends or families, or issues at work. In the case of college students, stress may be caused by the need to excel on a test or to finish a large amount of work by a deadline. It can lead to anxiety or depression and make work difficult to finish.

Stress may exhibit physiologically. If you are feeling a large amount of stress, you may experience physical symptoms. These symptoms could include loss of appetite, upset stomach, headaches, or exhaustion. These physical symptoms can exacerbate the stress you are feeling.

Stress can also exhibit cognitively. It can make you feel restless and make it difficult to focus. It may be easy to fall into negative thinking patterns. Instead of tackling the causes of stress, it is tempting to fall into negative thoughts. You may say to yourself, “this is too difficult” or “I am not good at this.”

Over time, stress can take its toll. The increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and muscle tension that often accompany stress can impact your body. This can lead to exhaustion or illness, which can cause problems for your productivity or relationships over time.

However, stress can also be channeled into more positive results. Stress may be a motivating factor to study longer hours or more effectively. In order for this to occur, however, stress must be managed effectively and carefully. The correct stress-management skills must be learned.

Causes of Stress

Stress in college can be caused by several different things. It can come from academics; the workload of college is substantially more than that in high school. In addition, there is less support available from parents and teachers. Stress can also come from social situations. Students have a new set of friends and fellow classmates to interact with. Stress can also come from lack of sleep or the logistics of a new living situation.

Academic Stress

When starting college, you may find that it is more difficult than high school. As you study and learn new material, you may feel stressed but try and keep up and excel. Perhaps you are studying for a test and you try and learn all of the information required, causing stress. This stress can be managed and reduced by employing a few of the following techniques. By managing your time correctly, setting goals, exercising, and eating right, you can prevent stress from piling up and inhibiting your academic success.

Manage Your Time

Managing time correctly is a key way to minimize stress and keep on top of your work. With good time management, you will be able to meet your deadlines and complete your assignments as necessary without feeling too overwhelmed.

The first step in managing your time effectively is to anticipate and plan your schedule. Know what you need to get done and when. This can be accomplished with the use of a calendar. That could be a paper calendar, a day planner, the calendar on your phone, or maybe just a list of deadlines. Find what works best for you.

Dealing with stress: manage your time to minimize stress

Whichever method works best for you, write down or input when all of your assignments are due and when your tests are. Input your study sessions and class times. Use your calendar to know when everything is due. This way, you won’t be surprised by any tests or assignments as they come. You will be able to look ahead in your schedule and know what you need to get done on any given day. Avoiding the unexpected is an extremely important part of managing your time.

The second step in time management is to break down tasks into manageable pieces. If you are facing a large assignment, break down the finished product into smaller parts. If you are studying for a test, break the material into sections. Then you will be able to check sections of studied material off as you go, and you will know what you have left to complete before the deadline. This can help make work less intimidating.

Finally, avoid procrastination. Procrastination can make a short assignment into a long one. You may spend many nights on something that could be done in one. By procrastinating, you will increase your stress. In addition, you will have less time to do other things you want to do, such as socializing with friends or participating in extracurricular activities. It can be difficult to avoid procrastinating, but it key to managing stress in college. When looking at your work, remember, do it and it will be done.

Set Goals

What do you want to achieve academically? Do you want a certain grade point average? Are you looking to improve over last semester? Maybe you are looking to graduate in a certain amount of time. Identify your goals, whether it be for a specific course or over the whole of your studies. This will help you stay focused and motivated as you move through college.

Set smaller goals, too. What steps can you take to help yourself stay less stressed or succeed academically? Maybe you set a goal to study for a certain amount of time, or perhaps your goal is to attend a certain amount of study sessions or groups. Make attainable goals that can be achieved. Set a timeframe to achieve your goals.

After identifying your goals, don’t let yourself lose track of them. Write them down and keep track of them as you progress. Remind yourself of your goals and monitor your progress. This will help you stay on track and be less stressed.


Even if you manage your time well and set goals and follow through, you may still feel stress sometimes. However, exercising and physical activity can help you manage your stress. It can help dissipate some of the energy and anxiety caused by stress.

Exercise has lots of benefits. In addition to increasing your energy, exercise causes your body to produce endorphins, making you feel better and more relaxed. Exercise also helps with the ability to concentrate. In addition, exercising regularly can help you sleep better and longer. Sleep deprivation can be a large cause of stress, and physical activity is great at minimizing this stressor.

Get exercise to help with stress: Exercising produces endorphins to help you relax and feel better

Exercising doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym or spending hours on the treadmill. Hiking or walking can be a great form of exercise. It can also be a great social activity in college. Join clubs or social groups to make friends and engage in an activity you like. Dancing, basketball, soccer … you name it. There are a ton of ways to engage in exercise that are fun and fulfilling.

Eat Well

Another important way you can manage your stress is by managing your diet. In college, it may be difficult to eat right. If you are spending your time studying for tests and going to classes, in addition to managing your other responsibilities such as family or work, you don’t have as much time for grocery shopping or cooking. It can be tempting to eat on the run. You don’t always have time to spend hours cooking or shopping.

However, don’t let your nutrition fall by the wayside. It is important to make time for healthy meals because eating poorly can increase your stress. A balanced diet, on the other hand, can help you stay focused, awake, and alert. It keeps you healthy and prevents illness. There’s nothing that can increase stress like getting sick during the middle of exam season or when you have a paper due. Eat healthy all year long to prevent untimely illness.

Eat well to help with stress: A proper diet will help you stay healthy and focused

Financial Stress

In addition to academic stressors, college can present other sources of stress too. Financial issues can put stress on students when they think about paying for school as well as paying for daily expenses. Financial aid can help cover the costs of college, but you may still find yourself thinking about covering other costs or about paying back loans after graduation.

Financial stress can be mitigated by fully understanding your financial options and obligations. Make sure you fully research financial aid options. Understand what loans or scholarships you are eligible for, and understand how and when you will need to pay back any loans you take out.

Luckily, financial resources are available through your college. Your financial aid office has counselors that can talk to you about your options. They can help walk you through scholarship and grant applications, and help you understand what types of aid you are eligible for. This guidance is irreplaceable for minimizing financial stress as you begin and move through college.

Social Stress

When starting college, you make new friends and new connections. Your classmates can be a great resource for social support and future networking resources. They understand better than anyone what you are facing academically at any given moment.

That being said, it can be difficult socially when first starting college. You may find yourself in a new city with your support network far away. Maybe it means leaving home for the first time and being further away from your parents or other family members. Thankfully, college resources are available to help you settle into a new city and meet new people.

To manage social stress, take advantage of opportunities to make meaningful connections. Join or organize study groups to connect socially with your classmates. Use college resources to settle into college life. Being away from family can seem scary, but luckily there are a ton of resources to help you find a new support network. You are not alone when starting college. Instead, you are actually part of a community of people that understand your challenges. By making new connections you can help minimize the social stresses of college life.

Looking Forward to the Future

You might find yourself experiencing stress when you think about finding a job after college. It might seem scary when you think about finding work in your field. However, there are career services available at college to help minimize this stress. Career services will work with you during college and after you graduate to find a job that’s right for you.

One way career services can help is by providing assistance in writing resumes and cover letters. They can provide resources to help create a professional resume and cover letter that is correctly geared towards the types of jobs you will be applying for. They can help you highlight your skills and experience to let employers know that you are the right one for the job.

Career services can also help you find jobs to apply for and identify career opportunities. When looking for a job, you may get too focused on one area of your field or particular type of job. Career services can help look for a job in your field that caters to your specific skills and talents.

Career services can help you find a job and start on your career path.

Once you’ve applied for a job, career services can help you excel at your interview. You can meet with a career coordinator to know what kind of questions to expect and go through mock interviews to practice the interview process. Correctly preparing for interviews will help minimize the stresses associated with applying for jobs, and it will help you succeed in the interview process.

In these ways and many more, career services departments can minimize the stress associated with finding work after you graduate. Know that these resources exist for you to use. Talk to career coordinators to help you through the job-search process. They are there so you can focus on your schoolwork before you begin applying for jobs.

Succeeding With Stress

As a college student, you may face stress from numerous sources. You may feel stress as you struggle to complete and excel at your academic work. You may feel stress as you think about your financial obligations. You may feel stress as you meet new people and are exposed to new social situations, and you can feel stress as you look toward the future and think about embarking on a new career. However, do not despair. These stresses are all manageable.

By understanding the stresses that you face as you go through college, you can manage your stress and even focus it to help you excel. You do not need to let stress impact your college career. You can face the future with your eyes wide open. Employ your own stress-management techniques to avoid anxiety and the physical symptoms of stress. Use college resources to understand your social, financial, and career options. Vista College will provide you with the support you need to manage stress and succeed in college.

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