A little stress can be a positive thing. For example, change can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be negative.
Accepting new challenges is how you progress from one stage of life to the next. According to Alice Boyes, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “Pursuing things you're curious about and interested in helps create a sense of meaning in life” and “builds skills and confidence.”
But moving away to college entails many changes. You have a new routine. You move among a new set of people. Your diet and sleep patterns are likely altered. How can you keep extra stress from unduly influencing your mood and school performance?
Three words: put yourself first.
This is not as easy as it sounds. When you have four different projects due the next day and your roommate wants to discuss the refrigerator issue, getting a full night’s sleep may seem impossible. However, your first responsibility is to your health and well-being.
Symptoms of college stress overload can include feelings of fatigue, sleeplessness, hostility or irritability, headaches, stomach aches, and muscle pain. Everyone gets a headache once in a while, but if you notice clusters of these symptoms, do this immediately:
- Get checked out. Make sure there is no underlying physical reason for your issues. Once the medical staff okays you, then you can work on reducing stress in your environment.
Here are some effective ways to combat the stress of your new situation:
- Allow yourself to take breaks. It may seem counterproductive to go to sleep or take a walk when you have a big test coming up. However, because stress can interfere with concentration, you may benefit in the end. An hour nap and two hours focused studying is more productive than three hours sleepily staring at the same page.
- Cut yourself some slack. Of course, you want your grades to be the best they can be, especially if you are aiming at grad or med school. But part of freshman year is simple transitioning. You wouldn’t expect to execute a triple lutz the first time you put on ice skates, would you? Consider yourself on a learning curve for the first semester.
- Eat Right. No one’s there to tell you to eat your green beans, so you’ll have to tell yourself. Sugary snacks, caffeine, and energy drinks will spike your energy and then drop it right down again. Protein, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of water are better bets for the long haul.
- Get Help. Remember, nobody gets extra points for “toughing it out” alone. An adult wisely uses all resources at his or her disposal to achieve goals. Talk to your new friends about what is, after all, a common experience. Stay in touch with family and former friends. Find information about the campus counseling center (most schools have them) and local religious organizations.
Above all, realize that stress is not a failing. It is a sign that you are “pushing the envelope” and growing as a person.
At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our focus is always on you. Our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. Our excellent team of tutors can help with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you would like more information, Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware are available to answer questions and provide solutions. You may reach either of them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.