Tips for Managing Stress

Stress is something everybody has to deal with, whether young or old, male or female, Type A or Type B. But stress can especially be hard on a college student. To start, students must attend classes. And no matter what major or year you are in, there is always one class that just eats all of your time. No matter how hard you work on it, you always feel like you’re playing catch up.

Then there is another layer to add to our growing stress: friends. You love to hate them and can’t live without them. They are your family away from home, but just like family, they have the ability to crowd your space and annoy you. This can be especially true in the 12-by-12 cube that is your dorm room.

The last major component of our escalating stress levels is perhaps the classic reason we come to college—to discover who we truly are. We do this by joining clubs, rushing fraternities and sororities, joining honor societies, finding jobs, internships and shadowing, changing majors (and changing them again), and trying new experiences. Now I’m not saying that to have a full college experience you must try everything, but you should try everything that interests you. When else in your life will you be able to do this?

The answer is never. So do a lot, but everyone must learn to balance all of these things and do what feels right for them. Now you will slip, everyone does, but there are ways to deal with a full load and still achieve and do everything you want.

I know this from experience: I am a senior biology and chemistry double-major who will be graduating in three years. This means I have to take about 17+ hours every semester and attend summer school. But I also like to be super involved. I volunteer in pediatrics every week, coach and referee soccer year round, hold a committee position for ECU’s Relay for Life, participate in several active clubs on campus (like Scuba Club, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Phi Eta Sigma), I am in the Honors program, hold a part time job at the Brody School of Medicine, plan to study abroad this summer, and am currently studying for the MCAT. Now I do not recommend becoming this involved. I feel like sometimes I’m clinically insane. I’ve even been told this by some of my close friends and family. But I have learned to deal and to relieve my stress, which allows me to maintain my crazy schedule.

A big thing for me is to have close friends and family. They supply me with the emotional support that I need. Whether I need to vent, scream and cry, or need a good kick in the pants to snap me back on track, they are there for me no matter what and I am there for them.  I have a rule with people who I care about that no matter what if they need me, call me. No exceptions! And I know they would do the same for me. Now you would think this could only add stress, but nothing feels better than helping someone who is having a rough time. It lifts your mood and makes you re-evaluate your problem and puts them in a better perspective. This can actually significantly decrease your stress level, and it also lessens your burden when you can share it with someone else.

Another way to de-stress is take some personal time. Whether it is an hour a day or just five minutes, everyone needs a moment to sit, breathe deeply, and enjoy the moment. You can do this by reading a good book, listening to a favorite song, playing a video game, or just smelling the roses. There needs to be some time in every day where you do whatever strikes your fancy. Not schoolwork, not anything that has a deadline, just something personal. Now the trick is not to spend forever doing your personal moment, but to unwind and then get back to work.

One last method for managing stresses it to schedule fun things into your week. They give you something to look forward to, but also force you to work on time management because you want to be able to enjoy your fun event without stressing over everything else you still need to do. Fun things my friends and I schedule are dinner and movie nights, and plans on the weekends, but I also like to schedule regular fun things. My new de-stress/fun event is underwater hockey; it’s for pure fun and it happens every week at the same time, so I can always look forward to it. But I have to schedule everything to make sure I can accomplish all I need to do. I use Google Calendar because I can have different calendars in different colors so they are easy to see. But I also know people use agendas or their phones, to plan events as to not forget them.

But no matter what you do to de-stress or how involved you get, remember college is a place where we are supposed to try new things, mess things up, and make mistakes. This is all part of growing up, and we have to learn to manage our stresses because to be successful, we have to overcome the stress.

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