How Common Is Stress in College?
It's easy to feel like you're the only one struggling, especially when you see your peers having fun and seemingly "crushing it" at events or on social media. But the most important thing to remember when you're feeling stressed is that you are not alone.
Let's take a look at some stats about stress in college students:
- Stress is one of the top five mental health issues among college students
- 45% of students report "more than average" stress
- 80% of students experience "frequent bouts" of stress
- 87% of students report feeling overwhelmed at least once during the school year
But according to an article published in the Wiley Public Health Emergency Collection in mid-2020, most college or university students don't seek help when they experience stress or other mental issues because they wish to avoid embarrassment or to appear more self-sufficient.
And while this makes a lot of sense — you're on your own for the first time and eager to prove yourself — intervention can be invaluable in reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.
Unique Stressors for College Students
College may be a common rite of passage for young adults today, but that doesn't mean it's easy or commonplace. The university experience presents a unique set of challenges — and with that, a unique set of stressors that high-school students and post-graduate workers don't experience in the same way.
Grades and coursework are some of the most typical sources of stress for college students. The way classes build on each other (Math 1010 is followed by Math 2020, for example) means that a failed test or incomplete course can set you back quite a bit, and many students can relate to feeling anxiety about grades.
Relationships and peer pressure take on a different type of stress when you're away from home and living on your own for the first time. You may be feeling pressured to try new things that you don't feel ready for — whether that's skydiving or cocktails — and dating as an adult, without parental supervision, presents a unique set of challenges too.
FOMO and homesickness are also major stressors, whether you're worried about missing out on fun activities on campus or fun family time back home. In fact, 69% of freshmen report feelings of homesickness — which is no surprise when you consider that college is the first time many people live away from their parents.
Work and finances are also incredibly common stressors. Work takes up valuable time that could be spent studying or socializing, and rising tuition costs mean that more and more students are taking part-time jobs in addition to part- or full-time courses.
Preventing Stress in the First Place
Some stress is inevitable in life and can actually be helpful — stress sharpens your focus and allows you to work harder. But too much stress or stress that lasts too long can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.
Now that you can put a label on some of the stress you may encounter as part of your college experience, learn how to reduce the likelihood of stress throwing you off your game:
- Manage your time - Set a routine and make a plan so things don't fall through the cracks. At the start of the semester, take all your syllabus from each class and put important dates in your personal calendar, whether that's on your phone or a physical planner. And once you know your class and lab schedule, set aside time each day for homework or studying.
- Practice setting boundaries - Protect your personal study time and relaxation time. It's easy to set boundaries when things are calm; practice saying "no" now so that you know you can do it later when it's more difficult.
- Find a support system - This could be friends, family, tudors/advisors/professors, or a doctor/therapist/counselor.
- Know your triggers - Be aware of triggers so they don't catch you off guard. These might inlude things like:
- Social anxiety
- Public speaking anxiety
- Test anxiety
Managing Stress When It Does Arise
It's important to manage stress when it does arise. While stress can seem unmanagable at times, here are a few proven methods for regaining control and relieving stress.
- Sleep enough - Getting an adequate amount of sleep drastically helps reduce anxious feelings by improving your bodies ability to process stress.
- Eat well - Research shows that a healthy diet provides a much needed source of extra energy which is helpful in coping with stess.
- Exercise - Exercising regularly has been shown to improve sleep, mood, and self-confidence, which can lower symptons of stess.
- Find an outlet - Friends, sports, gaming, or other hobbies can be healthy outlets to aid in decreasing stress.
- Find a support group - Friends, family, teachers, or therapists can all provide support when dealing with overwhelming stress.
- Volunteer your time - Volunteering has been shown to reduce stress, can connect you to a community, which can become a support group.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself - Keep your goals reasonable and attainable and celebrate them as you reach them.
- Practice mindfulness - Try breathwork, meditation, or yoga. Practice colo, join a club, or find a PE class that can be this outlet for you.
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is presented purely for educational purposes and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any condition. As always, consult your doctor before introducing a new supplement to your routine.
Stress Management Interventions for College Students in the Context of the COVID‐19 Pandemic: National Library of Medicine; Accessed August 2022
Stress in College Students; Stress.org; Accessed August 2022
The College Student's Guide to Stress Management;Purdue University; Accessed August 2022
Stress in College Students: Recognize, Understand, and Relieve School Stress; Maryville University; Accessed August 2022
Five Top Ways for College Students to Manage Stress;Casper College; Accessed August 2022
The Science Behind CBD; HempLucid; Accessed August 2022
What Is the Function of Endocannabinoids; MedicineNet; Accessed August 2022