Five top ways for college students to manage stress

By: Lisa S. Icenogle
Photo of a woman walking on a dirt road at sunset.

During your time in college, you will likely experience stress here and there. But if you are trying to regularly deal with stress, you should know that it can affect your physical and mental health. These effects can include not eating, overeating, not sleeping well, being moody and irritable for no real reason, being unable to concentrate, using artificial stimulants, drinking alcoholic beverages excessively, abusing drugs, etc. If you find yourself experiencing one or more of these issues, we have some ways that you can alleviate some of that stress. Below are five top ways for college students to manage stress.

1. Eat healthy foods


This sounds almost like a bummer, but it isn’t. What we are talking about here is a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein. The majority of the time, you need to choose those types of foods. That doesn’t mean you can’t have the occasional donut or potato chips, but what it does mean is that a diet of fast food, processed foods, fried foods, high-fat and high-sugar foods should be avoided most of the time. Did you know that a poor diet can increase your stress levels? Over time, a nutrition-poor diet can lead to a host of issues, including decreased cognitive function, weight gain, and mental and physical stress. Eating healthy allows your body to be less stressed. If you’re wondering what a healthy diet looks like, check out the “ChooseMyPlate” site by the United States Department of Agriculture. You can even purchase dining plans from Sodexo, which runs the Sub Connection, the cafes in Liesinger Hall and the Walter H. Nolte Gateway Center, and the Tobin Dining Hall. You can even see what’s on the daily menu at Tobin Dining Hall here. Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

2. Exercise


You may be surprised at how little you actually need to do to get some exercise in. Even if you can’t give more than 10 minutes a day, that 10 minutes will help release tension, up your mood, and help your body stay healthy. It’s a fact that physical activity does and will improve your overall health and help decrease your stress levels. At Casper College, you can work out at the T-Bird Fitness Center or participate in one of our many intramural teams. What other ways can you exercise daily? Park your car farther away from buildings, take the stairs, bike, hike, walk to your destinations, jog, etc. Remember, your body will fight stress better when you exercise, even a little bit!

3. Get plenty of sleep


One of the first things that you may find yourself skipping is getting enough sleep. Between classes, perhaps a part-time job, homework, and socializing, you might think that missing a few Zzzz is no problem. However, one of the best ways to ward off stress and keep your mind and body operating at peak performance is to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. You’ll find that getting enough sleep not only helps you feel and perform better, but it also helps with your memory and ability to recall things, helps with tissue repair and muscle growth, energy levels, and your ability to learn. Without enough sleep, you can find yourself experiencing more stress, which can lead to you not being able to go to sleep at night because you are stressed out! It can be a vicious cycle. One way to overcome this is to have and keep a regular sleep schedule. Try going to bed 30 minutes early and turn off your phone and tablet. Instead, read a book or magazine. If you are still wide awake after about 20 minutes with the lights off, get up and do something calming and soothing, which will allow your brain to calm down.

4. Manage your time and learn to say “no”


You can manage your time through organization and learning to say no. Organization allows you to manage your time, and good time management is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Purchase or make up your own day or weekly planner, use a calendar — Google Calendar or Apple’s iCalendar are both good — or a priority chart, whichever works best for you. Once you have settled on the best time and organization management for you, be sure to stay with it. Prioritize each item for the day or week and then assign an amount of time for each, starting with the most to the least important. This can and should include time for class and study, as well as time for work, family, friends, and yes, even yourself. Be sure to make time for relaxation and what interests you like a hobby or listening to music. And don’t forget not to take on too much. This can mean saying no to the many requests for your time you may get from others. We are often afraid to say no because we don’t want to seem rude or selfish, we feel obligated, we want to please the asker, etc. If you say yes all the time, or even most of the time, you can actually up your stress levels. By saying yes, you are putting your priorities and obligations on the back burner. But, at some point, you will have to go back to them, and if you end up without enough time for your priorities and obligations, you are sure to get stressed out. But you don’t need to be rude when you say no. Just let the other person know that while you appreciate them asking you, you cannot take on their request.

5. Practice Mindfulness


To practice mindfulness is to simply tune into yourself and be fully present in the moment. Studies have shown that when a person is engaged in mindfulness, their stress level is reduced. Students can sign up for a free four-week, one hour per week Koru Mindfulness Course at the Casper College Wellness Center. The course is specifically designed to provide college students with “ … mindfulness, meditation, and stress management skills … “ Students who have gone through the four-week training can feel calmer, more rested, have greater self-compassion and slow down their racing mind. It is important to note that you are less likely to be stressed when you are mindful of your needs and learn to engage in self-compassion. Besides practicing mindfulness, you can also induce relaxation through deep breathing, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, journaling, and positive thinking.

Remember, college students, like you, can experience stress for many reasons, including new or additional responsibilities, new living arrangements and daily schedules — which can also change eating and sleeping habits, harder classes, meeting new people, etc. However, if you find that stress is still getting to you even after trying these tips or are trying to treat it through alcohol or drugs, you need to ask for help. Casper College provides several avenues for you to pursue. Counseling services are housed within the Casper College Wellness Center. Casper College’s counselors offer individual, couple, and group counseling as well as consultations and crisis intervention. The Casper College Student Success Center can help you find tutoring and study resources, career services, and provide extra guidance, support or a helping hand. All of these services are free and confidential.

Media contact: Lisa S. Icenogle

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