Debbie is a recent Syracuse University graduate. She currently works as a fiction book editor and freelance writer, and her goal is to have a novel published someday. During her free time, she works on her side jewelry business and cuddles with her dog, Simba.
If you’re a college student, chances are that by the time the end of August rolls around and classes start back up, you’ll be super stressed out. In fact, according to a 2008 Associated Press study, eight out of ten college students claim that they experience major stress during the school year, and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) explains that 62 percent of college dropouts leave school because of unmanageable stress.
Phew. Sounds like a lot, right? Fortunately, although those statistics are pretty overwhelming, the good news is that college stress doesn’t have to be unmanageable. There are several simple things you can do every day to help you relax and keep a level head throughout the school year.
Between managing tough classes, labs, extracurricular activities and a new social life, exercise probably sounds like the last thing you want to do during your precious free time. But the fact is that exercise literally helps you reduce stress by releasing “feel good” chemicals, also known as endorphins, which is why it’s so well recommended by the ADAA. And here’s the icing on the cake: by relieving some of that anxiety, you’ll also be able to better handle your free time.
Meditation is one of the most effective ways to calm down when it feels like everything is spinning out of control. When you are anxious or stressed, it seems like a thousand thoughts are running erratically through your mind. When you meditate, you force your body to only focus on its breathing, which in turns stops those crazy, stressful “what ifs” from popping into your head.
Make sure to meditate with proper back, neck and shoulder posture to maximize results.
Find a Hobby
When all you do is go to class, study late into the night, write papers and complete tough homework assignments, it can be hard to remember that school isn’t your whole life (yes, even when it really does seem that way). A hobby can be a great mental distraction from the pressures at school. It’s even better when this hobby also combines other forms of stress relief, such as jogging (exercise) or yoga (exercise and meditation).
If you don’t have a hobby or can’t think of one, don’t hesitate to try something new! Maybe take a cooking class as an elective or sign up to go on a hike with a few friends. Think of something you really enjoyed when you were little—maybe you liked painting or writing silly poems—and give this hobby another go.
Make School Fun
You might not have much control over how professors run their classes, but you do have control over how you do your studying and homework. For example, instead of cramming pages and pages of what seems to be mindless material, make fun games out of the stuff that is going to be on the test. Invite a few friends over and play a sociology 101 version of jeopardy, or make a board game out of European history!