Whether you’re about to graduate with your high school diploma or your Bachelor’s degree, there are some aspects of education that we don’t learn much about. That education comes from experience, some trial and error, and hopefully we each stumble upon something that works best for us.
Yes, I’m talking about stress, an inevitable part of life. Getting assignments done, studying for tests, writing papers, somehow balancing every other area of life…it’s not easy. Except we all go through it. The real deviant is how we handle it.
I’m certainly not an expert. If you think I have my life together, then I must be a good actor. However, I do place a very high value on mental and emotional wellness. When we neglect to address and take care of the less visible signs of health, everything else suffers the consequences.
Wondering how much stress affects the body? Research from Mayo Clinic shows stress negatively affecting your body, mood and behavior. Stress can result in a wide range of consequences, including headaches, fatigue, sleep problems, sadness, restlessness, irritability, and much more. The American Psychological Association even goes on to list how chronic stress wreaks havoc on every single system within the body. For those who might not take stress seriously as a dangerous condition, perhaps the physical manifestations of stress will be convincing.
High school was certainly stressful. I don’t know how I managed to wake up by 6 AM every morning and make it through until after school activities. So with a freer schedule, college seems to be a slight break from constant work and focus. However, with college also comes independence. Living away from home and learning how to balance the academic, social, and other areas of life isn’t always easy. Classes add on tests and long essays to the plate, and life can feel like an endless conveyor belt piling on more and more stress.
Although there is a heavy focus on getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising, learning how to manage stress can feel very foreign. Yes, stress is helpful and stimulating, but excessive amounts that are present in a college environment. Wellness should be thought of as a scale with equal weights on each side. Throw one side off its alignment, and the other side becomes more precarious.
The same representation goes for stress. Someone who is always feeling overwhelmed, eats poorly, and doesn’t get enough sleep, a stereotypical and realistic description of many college students, usually has a limited ability to cope with stressful events. A college campus may be a temporary situation, but the environment should be utilized as a tool for young people to learn how to prioritize their well-being whilst feeling fulfilled with their education and relationship with others.
This is where I’ll probably end up sounding like a mom. However, just two short years ago, I was just another high school graduate off on a new adventure. Like so many others, I wasn’t entirely prepared for what my daily routine would become. Not only was I worried about living up to my inner expectations of what college “should” be, or how shows make it out to be, I was also prioritizing my schoolwork above everything else. Obviously this combination didn’t turn out well.
It’s helpful to know that this occurrence is very common among all college students, but that fact doesn’t excuse the concern of this severe stress happening in the first place. By learning how to manage individual stress in whatever way works best before moving into a dorm room, students may alleviate the severity of stressful times and become more resilient, conscious people.
To prevent some stress before it ever reaches fruition, organization and time management both act as valuable tools. Yes, that means not procrastinating everything to the last minute and actually learning how to study effectively. Canada’s York University lists the importance of goal-setting, tracking time spent in daily activities, and using a planner to keep things in order.
Stress management is not a one-size-fits-all skill. Finding whatever self-care activities or practices work best for individuals will probably take some trial and error. Some classic relaxation techniques include deep breathing, listening to music, and reading. Ultimately, whatever takes the mind off of the hectic noise of everyday life should be incorporated into students’ weekly or daily routines.
Also, the power of talking with counselors or empathetic loved ones shouldn’t be underestimated. According to counseling resources from the University of Florida, it’s easy to get caught up in a problem or a narrow view of something and feel that a failure or roadblock is a catastrophe. Discussing problems with a trusted professional or helpful ear allows people to gain new outside perspective and move out of what might seem like an isolated and negative internal world. The act of verbalizing or just jotting down concerns and putting them together often provides a sense of grounding control.
Nobody is perfect in handling stress. I’m certainly no master of zen. Everybody is always in a state of change, learning and growth. In this state, however, individuals can choose to be aware of what may lie ahead. We each only have one body and one life. A certain test or situation is only temporary, but our health is always there. Underlying every new experience, no matter how stressful, let’s prioritize maintaining balance. The degree will come, but let’s make the journey getting there a little easier and healthier.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie