When people are exposed to stressors or stimuli that provoke stress, they experience an array of physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive reactions. As such, two students might experience stress in very different ways.
Top 10 Stress Management Techniques for Students
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Most students experience significant amounts of stress, and this stress can take a significant toll on health, happiness, and grades. For example, a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that teens report stress levels similar to that of adults.
That means teens are experiencing significant levels of chronic stress, and that they feel their levels of stress generally exceed their ability to cope effectively. Roughly 30% report feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or sad because of it.
Stress can affect health-related behaviors like sleep patterns, diet, and exercise as well, taking a larger toll. Given that nearly half of APA survey respondents reported completing three hours of homework per night in addition to their full day of school work and extracurriculars, this is understandable.
Common Causes of Student Stress
Another study found that much of high school students’ stress originates from school and activities, and that this chronic stress can persist into college years and lead to academic disengagement and mental health problems. Common sources of student stress include:
High school students face the intense competitiveness of taking challenging courses, amassing impressive extracurriculars, studying and acing college placement tests, and deciding important and life-changing plans for their future. At the same time, they have to navigate the social challenges inherent to the high school experience.
If college is part of a teen’s plans, once they are accepted, the stress continues as they need to make new friends, handle a more challenging workload, be without parental support in many instances, and navigate the stresses that come with more independent living. Romantic relationships always add an extra layer of potential stress.
Many students feel a sense of needing to relieve stress, but with all of the activities and responsibilities that fill a student’s schedule, it’s sometimes difficult to find the time to try new stress relievers to help dissipate that stress. These options are relatively easy, quick, and relevant to a student’s life and types of stress.
What Are the Causes of Stress in College Students?
Many students work while in school to afford high tuition and housing costs. Unfortunately, part-time jobs typically pay just minimum wage. If you’re struggling economically, speak to your financial aid office to see whether you qualify for grants, loans, or work-study.
Homesickness and New Levels of Independence
Living Among Strangers
Cohabitating With Roommates
Coursework and Exams
Students often feel overwhelmed by the increased workload associated with college-level coursework. This realization can blindside students and contribute to stress and anxiety. In many classes, exams make up a large percentage of students’ grades, causing midterms and finals to be more stressful than normal.
Family Turmoil or Loss Back Home
A 2014 NPR study found that the death of a loved one is the second-highest cause of stress amongst U.S. adults. A death in the family can be extremely traumatic for college students, especially if they live away from home and can’t afford to take a break from classes.
According to a 2013 survey by Citibank and Seventeen Magazine, 4 in 5 students work while attending college. The average student works 19 hours a week. Many learners try to find a job that can accommodate the scheduling concerns associated with full-time education.
In addition to academic pressures, college introduces plenty of social pressures, such as the idea that you must make tons of friends and party every weekend. Peer pressure and societal expectations can exacerbate stress, especially for first-year students.
Romantic relationships take work. When you and your partner face the stresses of college life, the pressure can feel even greater. Additionally, many students may be in the process of questioning their sexuality and/or gender identity, which can impact dating and relationships.
Handling School Stress as a College Student
One of the recurring pressures that teens experience stress over is applying to and choosing a college. When those students arrive on those college campuses, they still can face stress and academic/social pressures. This guide outlines resources that can help.
On-Campus Support Groups, Services and Mental Health Resources
Colleges and universities often offer on-campus counseling and mental health services to students. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also offers groups on different college campuses across the United States that can help students who are facing stress and mental health issues. In a 2019 publication, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) published new strategies for addressing mental health support on campuses that can serve as effective guidelines for helping students face school stress.
Online Support Groups, Hotlines and Other Digital Resources
ULifeline also provides a hotline and resources for college students facing stress and other mental health issues. To access these resources, students can text “START” to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK. Depending on where students attend school, there may be additional digital resources available to them for tackling school stress through their college.
Calmness, Meditation and Other Mental Health Approaches
Britannica Digital Learning overviews several calming and breathing exercises that can benefit college students and help them alleviate stress. These include centering breath and “not mine” meditations, as well as an activity called “grounding with the senses.”
Yoga, Exercise and Additional Physical Health Strategies
Yoga Journal provides an extensive list of articles that can help college students use the practice of yoga to reduce stress and increase mindfulness. An article from Harvard Health Publishing dives deep into how various types of exercises, from participating in sports teams to vigorous workouts, help to bring enhanced peace of mind to a person. The article encourages college students to embrace exercise, in whatever form they choose, as a means of reducing stress.