Yes college can be demanding. Stress is prevalent on all campuses, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating. Here’s how to manage it
I remember my college days quite clearly. Sleepless nights, endless reading, ever-growing anxiety and stress-caused insomnia would perfectly describe what I was going through. Balancing a full-time job and study wasn’t an easy ride. There was never enough time for both, and I felt like I was the only one on this road. In fact, I wasn’t.
During the last 5 years of working with students and pursuing my teaching career, I learned that 70-80% of students experience high levels of stress in their academic life. According to a survey by Huffington Post, 13-17 year-olds regard school as a primary source of stress. After entering college or university, the level of stress only increases, thus becoming a real issue to deal with nowadays.
If you’re reading this article and school life seems unbearable, just remember that you’re not alone in this. I’ve identified 5 main causes of stress and possible solutions for how to tackle it. Hopefully, this will make your academic life a bit brighter!
Cause #1: Homesickness
No matter how old you are, being away from home is always a challenge. Especially, for kids who have just graduated and moved to another city with no friends and family. It can be quite hard and stressful to adapt to the new environment when your closest people are far away. As a result, students often feel distracted or unmotivated — which can negatively influence studies.
Even though your family and friends are not with you physically, remember that they are there for you emotionally. Do not hesitate to call or FaceTime or Skype them whenever you feel like you need some support.
Go beyond texts to feel a stronger personal connection.
Cause #2: Negative Thinking Patterns
What if I miss the deadline? What if I fail the test? As soon as ‘what if’ questions get into your head, it becomes difficult to think clearly. Your brain starts picturing all the possible negative scenarios in which you could fail. Certainly, you start stressing out immediately. More or less, we’re all prone to self-doubt. Sometimes even the brightest, smartest and most confident students struggle with negative thinking patterns.
Try to fight negative thinking with positive thinking patterns. Don’t let your thoughts create an alternate universe where you fail all the time. You know it’s not true. Ask yourself:
Does thinking that I am going to fail the test help me in any way? Will it help me succeed on it? Of course it won’t.
Whenever negative thoughts take over and you start doubting yourself, just stop for a second and try to evaluate them. Try to identify what made you think in a negative way in the first place. Is it really accurate to think that you are going to fail the test even though you studied really hard for it for days or weeks? Most of the time, negative thoughts have nothing to do with real facts. Your job here is to identify a negative thought, evaluate it for accuracy (and if it’s not accurate, then dismiss that imposter!), and then replace it with more positive one.
Cause #3: Assignments Overload
Yes, there are a lot of assignments at college. As a result, many college students give up even before starting to work. Overthinking and trying to cope with everything at the same time leads to minds being blown. Moreover, looking at the big picture is so overwhelming that students do not feel like they are able to deal with all the assignments. Especially, if there are some rigid deadlines.
Break your work into chunks and complete them step-by-step. Do not think that you have to do everything at once. Focus on one thing at time. You will see that it is much more productive and most importantly, less stressful.
There’s a saying, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Just focus on one small critical task, complete it, then move on to the next.
Cause #4: Social Anxiety
Making friends can be quite a challenge for some, especially in a new environment. That is why, many students isolate themselves and focus on studies only. The fear of being rejected is stronger than the desire to meet and get to know someone new. Paradoxically, this social anxiety only makes studies worse, as students lack overarching confidence about themselves.
College or university is the best place to make connections, as there are so many people in the same, new boat as you. A great way to launch a relationship with someone is by finding common interests. For this reason, consider joining various clubs, organizations and activities where you can talk to people who are on the same wavelength with you. Fraternities and sororities are popular on many campuses for exactly this reason — they provide a social network of like-minded people.
Cause #5: High Expectations
Another cause of stress is high expectations from parents and also from the students themselves. Being under pressure and trying to reach the high standards you set for yourself can result in just burning out. Especially, when you are constantly reminded about the stiff competition.
Never stop reaching toward the goal you have set for yourself — yet, don’t get annoyed and upset with yourself if you don’t quite reach every benchmark, either. Rather, celebrate the accomplishments you do make, keep marching forward, and remember that if it feels like your ‘master plan’ no longer fits and you want to shift course to a more aligned major or academic path, then follow your instincts and change it up.
As in life, it’s important to enjoy the process of learning as much as the fruits of your degree.
The school of life can teach you how to cope with stress and tackle anxiety, if you’re willing to learn.
Breathe deep and keep calm… and know the power of taking it one step at a time. This is YOUR journey — learn to direct and control it, not the other way around.
You may also enjoy reading Meditation Studio | The App that Makes Meditation Simple by Kristin Noel