Stress is a part of every student’s daily life. Leaving home or commuting daily; managing finances; living with roommates; and juggling work, classes, and relationships all contribute to the normal stress of being a student. In addition, it is not uncommon for students to feel stressed and anxious about wasting time, meeting high standards, or being lonely. Stress can also come from exciting or positive events. Falling in love, preparing to study abroad, or buying a car can be just as stressful as less-happy events.
One of the most important things you can do is to recognize when your stress levels are building. The amount of stress that you can tolerate before you become distressed varies with your life situation and your age. A critical first step in coping with stress is taking stock of the stressors in your life.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Tips for Stress Management
There are many ways to manage unhealthy stress in your life. The key to stress reduction is identifying strategies that work for you. As you begin to understand more about how stress affects you, you will develop your own ideas to help relieve tension.
Because each person is unique, some of these stress management strategies will be more helpful for you than others, and some will be new skills that require practice to be effective. Think about learning to ride a bicycle. There was a time when this was a new skill and felt very unnatural and awkward. You probably needed help at first. With some coaching and practice, stress management, like cycling or any other skill, becomes easier and more effective.
- Take a Deep Breath!
Stress often causes us to breathe in a shallow manner, and this in turn almost always causes more stress. Take a moment to mentally scan your body for physical tension. Does your chest feel tight? You may be holding your breath without even knowing it! Shallow breathing puts less oxygen in the bloodstream, which leads to an increase in muscle tension. As a result, you may experience headaches, or you may feel more anxious and uptight.
The next time you feel uptight, try taking a minute to slow down and breathe deeply. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Then slowly exhale as you count to 10. The more you practice deep breathing, the more effective a stress-reduction technique becomes.
- Manage Your Time
One of the greatest sources of stress is over-commitment or poor time management. Plan ahead. Make a reasonable schedule for yourself and include time for stress reduction as a regular part of your schedule.
Trying to take care of everything at once can seem overwhelming, and, as a result, you may not accomplish anything. Instead, make a list of what tasks you have to do. Then do one at a time, checking them off as they’re completed. Give priority to the most important ones and do those first. If a particularly unpleasant task faces you, tackle it early in the day and get it over with; the rest of your day will be much less stressful.
Most importantly, do not overwork yourself. Resist the temptation to schedule things back-to-back. All too often we underestimate how long things will take. Too much studying is actually inefficient and can lead to burnout. Recognize when you are most stressed and allow yourself some reasonable breaks. When things feel especially difficult, take a walk or otherwise change your scenery.
- Connect with Others
Being by yourself is fine, but being lonely is different. A good way to combat sadness, boredom, and loneliness is to seek out activities involving others. There are over 100 student organizations at TU.
- Talk It Out
Bottled-up emotions increase frustration and stress. Share your feelings. Perhaps a friend, family member, teacher, clergy person, or counselor can help you see your problem in a different light. Talking with someone else can help clear your mind of confusion so that you can focus on problem-solving. Also, consider writing down your thoughts and feelings. Putting problems on paper can assist you in clarifying the situation and developing a new perspective.
- Take a “One-Minute Vacation”
When you have the opportunity, take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel relaxed and comfortable. Notice all the details of this place, including pleasant sounds, smells, and temperature. Imagining a quiet scene can take you out of the turmoil of a stressful situation. If you find yourself having difficulty imagining a scene on your own, try listening to one of our guided imagery exercises.
- Take a Deep Breath!