Keep Calm and College On!
When thinking about what I wanted to write about this week, I really wanted the topic to be fun and uplifting. Yet, during the past couple of weeks, one theme has really dominated my life: stress. While college has been such a fun and exciting time of my life, it has also brought some of the most stressful moments of my twenty years.
Stress is one of those things that doesn’t just affect people mentally, but also affects physical health as well. It is no wonder that these past couple of weeks, when test time is hitting hard, I am suddenly seeing sick people everywhere. This is why I think it is so important for college students to learn how to cope with their stress. At the end of the day, you will feel better if you’re not trying to study with a queasy stomach.
In addition to physical health, stress can also affect your personal relationships. When I am stressed out, I am not a fun person to be around. I am ornery, and almost inevitably end up snapping at someone that I love. Just last week, I was stressed out about homework and gave my boyfriend a hard time over the phone. In times like those, it is not only frustrating to feel that way, but I also become disappointed in myself for acting unreasonably. I also have a hard time focusing when I am stressed, so I don’t pay adequate attention to those around me. It seems that the best way to maintain my health and relationships is to learn stress management.
I have always been an anxious person. While everyone responds to stress differently, I respond by becoming physically ill. Around holidays, I get sick. Around tests, I get sick. If I have a job interview, I get sick. In general, I typically get so anxious and stress out about things that my body responds by telling me it is time to calm down . For instance, freshman year I played Ado Annie in the Railspitter Playhouse production of Oklahoma! Because it was my first big role in a play, I was incredibly anxious right before showtime. The week that I performed, I developed a sinus infection and my voice gave out, While I still performed and loved every minute of it, I would have been better off if I hadn’t worn myself out with anxiety. For this reason, I have learned some pretty solid stress management techniques. Now, I have just started my junior year of college and things seem to be piling up around me. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I try to remember to not sweat the small things. But sometimes it’s not that easy. Here is my list of how to manage stress in the myriad of situations you may find yourself in:
When there is a big test you have to study for:
- You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too much material at once, so spread your studying out throughout the week or two before test day.
- Figure out what kind of learner you are. Don’t go to a study group if you get distracted easily. Don’t just read the textbook if you are better off copying information onto note cards.
- Don’t stay up all night. Your mind actually processes and encodes information better when it has had sleep. All-nighters can actually be detrimental to test grades. My personal favorite method of studying is to study well the night before, get a good night’s rest, and then wake up in the morning study some more. If you ever see a crazy girl in one of the Avery classrooms writing all over the whiteboards, there is a good chance it’s me.
- Taking frequent breaks when studying is actually not the worst thing in the world. In reality, your working memory can only handle so much information. When I need a quick break from study time, a nice walk or cat video does the trick!
When homework is piling up:
- Set up an hour or two a day to only do homework.
- Turn the cell phone off, set up your computer to block social media for a certain amount of time, and set up camp in a good homework-friendly environment. I can never study in my room. Where my bed is, there will be naps. I have found that going to the Tagge Center or setting up in my sorority’s room is my best option for getting work done. Find your haven and take advantage of it.
When your personal life is getting out of hand:
- My answer for this is “It’s Complicated!” Getting your personal life in order may be the first thing on your to do list, because academics are hard to handle when your personal life is dominating your thoughts.
- Try to confront your issues. Confrontation can be really hard, but the best way to take care of something is typically to talk it out and get it worked out.
- If it is something that you can’t just “work out,” try talking to someone about it. Whether it is a friend, your mom, or even one of the counselors here at LMU. The counselors here have a strict confidentiality policy, and sometimes just talking about your problems can be some of the best therapy. Sometimes just saying it out loud to someone can give you the strength to actually work through the issue. Usually when I feel down or overwhelmed, I talk to one of my sorority sisters. Finding somebody I am comfortable with to let it all out can really lift some of the weight off of my shoulders.
- Have fun. Ask someone to tell you a joke. Watch crazy Youtube videos.
- I hear working out relieves stress. While not my cup of tea, science has proven that adrenaline is a great stress reliever.
- Hang out with friends. College is a multi-faceted experience. Work hard, play hard.
- GET SOME SLEEP. I am a cranky person without sleep, and I’m betting lack of sleep doesn’t exactly help stressful situations.
- As hard as it is in college, try to eat right. Your body feels better when it has had proper nutrition.
- Most of all: don’t stress about stress. That may sound crazy, but some of the biggest freak- out moments I’ve witnessed have been when I or a friend has suddenly realized how much stress they are under.
- Just breathe. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.
Don’t let too much stress dampen your college experience. If you have any questions, comments, or stress techniques of your own, feel free to share!