There’s no way around it. College is stressful. Whether you’re a high school student worried about managing stress in college or a college student overwhelmed by midterms, here are a few tips and strategies for avoiding and relieving stress:
1. Get enough sleep
Do not skimp out on sleep. Pulling an all-nighter is not advised. While an all-nighter might seem necessary, it should never be your first option. All-nighters rarely produce quality work. Sleep deprivation can increase stress and cause you to be even less focused.
Make it a priority in your schedule to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation has a fantastic article on the importance of sleep. (HINT: 7—9 hours is ideal)
2. Make a to-do list
Making a physical list of all the items swirling around in your head might actually be one of the most helpful things you can do when you are stressed. Simply write down all that you have to get done and categorize the list by how long it will take to complete and the urgency of the task.
Often, you are too stressed to do anything. You know you are stressed but because you have no idea where to start, the stress never subsides. Creating a list of everything you have to do will help you be focused and productive.
3. Take a break
It may seem counterintuitive, but taking a break will actually help you get your tasks done. It takes energy to focus and complete tasks, but if you are stressed, you may not have the ability to properly focus. By creating a list of things to do and then laying it aside for a moment, you can comfortably relax by taking a walk, making a snack, or chatting to a friend for a few minutes before diving back into your work. Try the Pomodoro Technique, in which you work for 25 minutes and take a five-minute break. After four 25 minutes sessions, you take a 15—30 minute break. It’s a great way to be productive with the added benefit of letting the pressure off periodically.
4. Don’t overcommit
You may have heard the expression “trim the fat.” This means cutting out the excess. Maybe you have too many commitments and need to cut some things out of your schedule. Take some time to find out what things you would be willing to give up in order to afford some time to rest.
Remember, you just might have to cut out some things that you really enjoy, but it’ll be worth your sanity at the end of the day.
5. Create a plan and stick with it
First, realize that you’re stressed because your previous plan–including not having a plan–for navigating your college obligations has not worked. Use this time as an opportunity to refine your plan. A good plan will help you feel less stressed now and prevent you from becoming unreasonably stressed in the future. Your plan should include a list of all your upcoming obligations and the time it will take to complete them, as well as consistent times for sleep and relaxation.
Yes, all work and no play does indeed make Jack a dull (and stressed) boy, but follow these tips and you can set up a system of managing stress before it’s too late.