5 Ways to Reduce Stress for College Students and Recent Grads

08/08/2017

Over the past several months, Path To Teach has published a series of blogs on how to "Succeed Academically," "Engage with Professors," and "Prepar[e] for College,"summarizing advice that current or recent college students preparing to be teachers have offered for recent high school graduates considering the same career.

Transitioning from high school to college is not easy and can be enormously stressful -- so let's tackle that head on.

Stress has been known to lead to poor academic performance, poor personal and professional relationships, and overall bad health. Ignoring stress can lead to high blood pressure, ulcers, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, headaches, depression, mood swings, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating. Needless to say, stress can hamper your success in college. Nothing can eliminate all stress, but it can certainly be reduced and there are ways you can stay healthy and strong while in a stressful situation.

Here are five ways college students and young professionals are tackling stress on a daily basis based on an informal Facebook survey of recent college graduates serving abroad in the United State Peace Corps:

1. Exercise -- All colleges give students access to fitness centers and group classes in cycling, yoga, and other forms of exercise. Students should dedicate at least a few days a week to exercising. Regular exercise will serve you throughout your life -- whether in college or after. Most fitness centers and private gyms offer flexible hours to accommodate varying work and student schedules.

2. Plan/Schedule -- Procrastinating until the last minute and missing assignments will cause stress. Creating a daily/weekly schedule that includes time for assignments, exercise, social time, etc. will mitigate this problem by assuring that you are never frantically completing multiple assignments at the same time at the last minute. Do assignments in advance when possible, and utilize classmates who are willing to hold you accountable for your schedule. If you have a roommate, post the schedule on your door so he/she knows when to engage and when to respect your space.

3. Meditation/Quiet Time -- The endless distractions available with Netflix, Amazon Prime, video games, or the latest text, video call, Tweet, or Snap will always beckon, crowding your mind and injecting stress (from others, from not following your schedule) into your life. Consider including time on your daily schedule for quiet time from these entertainment and social distractions. Daily meditation will allow you to digest all you've consumed and clear your mind for what's coming next. I still appreciate the feeling I have after just 30 minutes of quiet time under a tree, driving in silence, or simply people watching.

4. Keep a Journal -- The power of writing down one's thoughts, concerns, hopes, aspirations, fears, and deepest thoughts should not be underestimated. Some feelings are better kept secret, but simply keeping them bottled up inside can cause stress. A journal is more than just writing down a daily account of one's life, a journal is an opportunity to be truly honest with yourself and [when read later] an opportunity to reflect on how much you've grown and increased your resilience to stress over time.

5. Unplug from Social Media -- The recent movement to encourage millennials to unplug from social media for a few hours a day has gained steam. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram provide us entertainment, information, and immediate access to friends, but it can also monopolize our time at a juncture when time is in short supply. I actually fasted from social media for 40 days and used the time to write a draft of my first book. Try unplugging from social media for a few hours a day and see how it affects your level of stress, academic performance, and ability to finish assignments in a timely manner.

Nothing you can do will guarantee you will not experience stress. But your ability to regulate what stress you allow into your life and the habits of mind and body you keep to mitigate that stress will make all the difference.

So, which of these will you start, today?

— Curtis Valentine
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