Top 10 Ways to Beat Academic Stress in College
Nearly everyone studying in colleges and universities experiences academic stress from time to time. Personal growth can be painful as well as exhilarating. The students who thrive the most aren’t those who necessarily feel zero stress, but those who succeed at managing the pressures that they do feel. Here are our top 10 tips for beating academic stress:
1. Have a Schedule
Beating academic stress and finding success in academic life can start with smart planning. When you know what’s coming, you can better prepare yourself for being ready to handle it. It doesn’t matter whether you like your desk cluttered or Spartan, as long as you know where everything is and can do what you need to do when you need to do it, you’ll be able to reduce uncertainty, and therefore academic pressure.
2. Do One Thing at a Time
Once you have set up a schedule, you’ll see that it’s impossible to complete everything on it all at once. Remember, the object is to avoid academic stress, not increase it! Just as a basketball team down 12 points with five minutes to go can’t score a 12-point play in a single trip up the court, you’ll succeed by focusing on completing one task (or basket) at a time. When you break your projects down into manageable pieces, you’ll have more frequent moments of feeling accomplished along the way.
3. Cultivate Healthy Relationships
The social media era has taught us that most people can manage relationships with 150 others. Our goal should be to make sure that each of those 150 is someone who lifts us up rather than drags us down. Academic stress won’t get any easier if people in your life dump more stress on top of you. Find friends who make you laugh and understand what you are going through. Study groups may help too, but spending time with people we enjoy, and who enjoy us, is a sure stress-reducer.
4. Keep Exam Periods in Perspective
Exam weeks are traditionally known as the most stressful times for college students. One way to make them less intense is to keep to that schedule mentioned in #1 above. If you have built in proper study and review time during the course of the term, you won’t have to be playing catch-up during the days leading up to your exams. And once you get through them, you can enjoy a well-deserved break!
This one might seem obvious, but getting enough oxygen to your brain is going to keep you more alert to attend to your studies and also less stressed about academic life. Good posture here helps too, so you’re not squeezing your own lung capacity. A few deep breaths will help you calm down in acute moments of anxiety, and regular breathing exercises will keep the pressure from coming back and keeping you from you goals.
6. Eat Food
Without a good relationship with food, we will be hindered in coping with academic stress. College students are infamous for eating habits that are, shall we say, less than optimal. Energy drinks, fast food, and ramen do not a balanced diet make. On the other hand, obsessing over “eating healthy” is also less than optimal. Well-known food writer Michael Pollan may have put it best when he boiled down years of studying food and health to these seven words: “Eat food not too much, mostly plants.”
7. Sleep, Perchance to Dream
People who boast how they can get by on three or four hours of sleep most nights may not realize that they don’t really have anything to be proud about on that score. The sleep-deprived aren’t living more life than the rest of us, but they’re definitely living more stressed-out lives: lowering their immune systems, impairing their cognitive functioning, and disrupting their metabolisms. Academic stress will only get worse if you don’t get enough sleep; do get enough sleep, on the other hand, and the stress simply can’t be as bad as it would be if you were tired all time.
8. Get Your Blood Pumping
Exercise is a sure-fire way to help control academic and all kinds of other stress. You don’t have to be a varsity athlete or prima ballerina to get enough exercise to stay healthy and keep an even keel. Brisk walking every day or every other day for 30 minutes counts, too. Just so long as you keep those veins and arteries doing their good work, you’ll be sharper when it comes to studying for your classes and living your best life.
9. Music Soothes the Savage Beast
Humans have been making music for at least 35,000 to 40,000 years—there’s just something about it that makes our species feel good. Students suffering from academic stress in the 21st century have affordable and instant access to more types of music than anyone in those tens of thousands of years—in fact, thanks to the internet and streaming services you can hear almost any recording ever made, whenever you want. That simply wasn’t possible until the last 15 years. Take advantage!
10. Be Kind to Yourself
If you’re someone who has active conversations with their inner voice, make sure that inner voice addresses you with respect and positivity. Maybe even have it call you by name, as that can give you the distance you need sometimes to gain a bit of distance on whatever situation you are in, allowing you to see things more clearly. Rather than saying, “I’m not good at this” or “That probably won’t work,” try asking, “How can I get better?” and “What can I do to make this work?” Then be sure to celebrate when you do make it work!
Academic stress won’t be all that bad if you take the right steps to counteract it—and sometimes, as see above, it can be simpler than you think to do so. By taking the right actions and avoiding the debilitating ones, you’ll have laid out your path to academic success.