College is a stressful time. Learning to manage stress before it manages you will help you enjoy your college experience while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Building your stress management skills
The foundation of good stress management is formed by three everyday healthy habits:eating right, getting enough sleep, and being physically active.
It's easy to fall into the trap of staying up late or pulling all-nighters to study, but it's not very helpful. We only function at 50-70% efficiency without adequate sleep (7 hours nightly for most people) and are much less able to deal with stressful situations.
A balanced diet, consisting of a variety of fresh foods, improves your ability to think clearly, concentrate, and feel energetic and strong when you need it most, such as during studying or test taking. Fitness strengthens our bodies and makes us more resilient. Stress levels stay lower and we handle them better when they do rise if we are physically fit.
Practical tips for getting a handle on stress
- Set priorities based on both importance and urgency. Time and energy are limited resources. If we spend all our time putting out fires by working only on what's due next, we may not have the energy to do our best work on the most important things. Think about your energy like your bank account--how can you stretch and budget it so you have enough left for the most important "bills"?
- Talk out your worries: Share problems with someone you trust and respect. Venting to a friend, family member, or counselor provides a release to the tension that builds due to daily stressors.
- Perfectionism is a huge time waster. Examine your expectations--do you expect perfection on everything? Do you spend longer than necessary getting tasks, papers, and presentations "just right"? Think about adjusting to a more achievable, but still acceptable, level of performance.
- Make time for yourself. Find a relaxation technique or exercise routine that you enjoy and schedule time for it, especially during stressful times. This step is crucial in blowing off steam before you reach the "boiling over" point.
Student Health & Wellness offers free stress management consultations. If you would like to make an appointment, call 319-335-8394.