Starting out in college may be the toughest part of higher education for some, and no amount of orientation can prepare students for the profound changes in lifestyle and responsibilities. The unanticipated changes of college life alone can be a significant source of stress, and as the college years continue, so can balancing a tough workload with extracurricular activities and a part-time job.
There are some lesser-known ways to combat the strain of a major life change such as starting and finishing a college degree. Follow these tips to help take control of your or your child's often stress-filled journey through college life.
Talk Honestly About Starting College
Working adults and young high school graduates alike can benefit remarkably from simply talking about the stressors of starting college. High school grads should express any and all concerns to parents so that they can be addressed and turned into preparatory lessons for the student. Adults who are looking to continue their education but feel nervous about beginning should lean on a friend or fellow student who can help guide their misunderstandings and create a safe and comfortable environment in which education can take place.
Get the Sleep Your Body Wants
Procrastination is an all-too-common crutch for the college student, and it often leads to binge studying. All-night study sessions cause heavy fatigue and detract from the sleep that's not only necessary for learning but also for physically managing college stress. Your brain doesn't just need sleep to raise your grades; it also needs to rest so it can fully utilize processes that solve problems to reduce stress and relay chemicals that help you feel relaxed and in control.
Don't Abuse Alcohol
Legal or not, many young college students partake in alcoholic beverage consumption as part of the American college culture. Of course, abstaining from alcohol is the best way to make sure your brain is able to process elevated stress levels. However, for those who have added drinking alcohol to their lifestyle, keeping it at a minimum will make sure that none of the neural processes that reduce stress are inhibited.
Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum – heavy drinking will only add to your stress in college.
Eat Home-Cooked Meals
The benefits of home-cooked meals are three-fold: They are most often more nutritious than the ramen or burger diet of the typical American student, they save precious money that can be an additional stressor, and they frequently recall the flavors and aromas of a childhood home.
The extra nutrients in fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats provide a source of energy for your brain to trigger the appropriate stress responses. Affordability means that money will weigh less heavily on your mind. As a bonus, home cooking is usually influenced by the cooking students experienced growing up, which will help relieve the sense of homesickness and increase relaxation.
Partaking in club activities helps increase social pleasure, occupies the brain with additional stimuli, and can even increase endorphin levels for students who participate in sports. Your brain will naturally release chemicals associated with pleasurable feelings when you socialize with like-minded individuals as well as succeed at intellectual and physical pursuits. Plus, those who play sports get a boost in endorphins just from pushing their bodies to work extra hard.
Take Advantage of Student Support
Most colleges and universities provide a large number of student services that are either free or built into the institution's fees and are available to help students who are dealing with college stress. For relief of the stressors related to academic performance, check out some of the available support programs your college offers, including tutoring, office hours offered by professors, and peer support groups that can improve the way you view and handle the stress of college classes.
Millions of students have gone to college before you and graduated successfully, and most of those students have experienced nervousness, doubt, and low confidence. That's why tools and expertise are now available to help maximize the number of students who learn to cope with their college stress and succeed at their academic and social goals. Use the tools and manage the stress to ensure success at college and beyond.