Life is stressful. There is no way around it. But it can be even more stressful for students graduating from high school and continuing to college. Many teens already have busier schedules than they can manage. The transition from the family home to a college dorm or off-campus housing creates more pressure on them.
Having to manage cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other tasks while attending college classes causes stress levels to rise quickly. That’s not even mentioning the need to balance relationships, part-time jobs, and finances. With tuition rates at all-time highs and student loans accumulating, many students are understandably stressed by the economics of attending college.
While stable friend groups, a flexible job, and sound investment advice from elders can help stave off anxieties coupled with new territories of life and learning, there are still piles of stress that can stack up for young people attending college.
Anxiety and depression in college students have hit shockingly high levels in the last few years. According to a 2018 study by The American College Health Association, 63% of college students across the United States experienced not just anxiety but “overwhelming anxiety” during the school year.
Given the significant lifestyle change from high school to college, it is unsurprising that the biggest rise in anxiety levels happens in the first two years. Challenges to psychological functioning, such as threatened self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and stress, while adapting to new social environments, does much to strain new students.
The first two years of college come with many challenges that can make or break students’ success. With these concerns in mind, here are some practical tips for students coping with the stress of college.
Given all the distractions of technology, social media, and popular entertainment, it’s no wonder students struggle to maintain healthy eating, rest, and exercise habits. Despite the urgings of parents and health professionals, young people find it easy to neglect self-care when they are away at college. One of the first healthy habits to be abandoned is getting enough sleep.
The lack of hours in a day for homework, jobs, classes, meals, sports, and extracurricular activities (and maybe a date) forces students to sacrifice something, which often ends up being sleep. An odd kind of bragging occurs on college campuses when students boast about how little sleep they can survive on. Some sleep deprivation is bound to happen, but these tips can help improve the quality of sleep and rest:
Avoid doing homework in bed: This can lead to associating bed with work instead of rest.
Do computer work first: Exposure to the blue light of computer screens shortly before bedtime has been shown to decrease sleep quality. Doing that work earlier in the day and saving reading or writing by hand for later will aid the body’s ability to fall asleep faster naturally.
As children coming home from school, most of us had one thought—go play! As we age, this desire is gradually replaced by the pressures of adult responsibility. However, that natural inclination to play is not just a childish desire. It’s the body’s natural way of regulating energy for optimal health. Unfortunately, much of play today is sedentary. Our bodies aren’t built for sitting in chairs, working at desks all day, and playing in front of screens at night.
Health professionals recommend at least half an hour of physical exercise per day. Exercising improves sleep quality and circulates blood, oxygen, and healthy hormones, which lessen the effects of anxiety and depression.
Cafeteria food has been a joke of college life for generations. Despite advances in nutritional information and access to healthier foods, what students actually eat comes down to availability, choice, and budget. Unhealthy foods are often more affordable. Combined with the urge for comfort food and the need to get back to writing that paper, students all too often reach for the unhealthy choice.
While unhealthy foods high in sugars, fats, and carbohydrates may give the body a cheap, quick fix, the body needs more than that. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and clean proteins will help reduce the sluggishness that comes after eating a big meal and replenish the body with nutrients to rebuild itself after mental and physical exertion.
While these three suggestions of ways to take care of the mind and body can help lessen the effects of anxiety, there are many more ways for students to prepare themselves for college. With these and other skills in hand, any student can tackle the challenges of college life.
About the Author: Sarah Daren has been a startup consultant in multiple industries, including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children.
Photo by Helena Lopes: https://www.pexels.com/photo/group-of-friends-hanging-out-933964/
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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