Managing Stress and Staying Healthy: Advice For College Students
A happy and successful life in college depends on achieving balance - balance in the types of courses you take each semester, balance between academics and extracurricular activities, and, of course, balance between work and play. Managing stress, health, and your psychological and emotional well-being in college is also about finding balance.
Keeping Stress At Bay And Staying Healthy
As you no doubt learned a long time ago, having a little bit of stress in your life is a good thing. It keeps you getting up in the morning and moving forward in the direction of your goals and aspirations. Too much stress, though, can wear down your health and cripple your ability to make progress.
Keeping stress at bay in college depends on five primary factors. We discuss each of them here, in no particular order.
Get Organized and Stay Organized
Nothing will get you stressed out faster than being disorganized. Disorganization can lead to missed problem sets and other assignments, forgotten meetings, timing conflicts, and any number of other problems that will send your stress level (and perhaps your blood pressure) shooting skyward. As soon as you have decided on what courses you'll be taking, transfer the due dates for all assignments, problem sets, and papers, and the dates of all quizzes, tests, exams, midterms, and finals to a single calendar. Every organizational meeting, game, intramural event, party, date, or time you agree to meet someone to study should also immediately make it onto this calendar.
We don't care whether you keep your calendar in a PDA, on your laptop, on your cell phone, or on a good old-fashioned paper calendar. All we care about is that you pick one place to keep track of everything and that you do it religiously. Once this becomes a habit, it will be second nature to you to record any commitment that you make. But the confidence you'll have in knowing that you haven't forgotten something or somebody will help you sleep better at night and keep your stress level under control.
Get Some Exercise Every Day
A second component of keeping stress at bay, which you probably also already know, is to get some exercise every day. Exercise triggers a series of chemical reactions in your body that helps you feel relaxed and refreshed and thus makes you better equipped to handle the everyday challenges of college. Whether your exercise comes in the form of grueling two-a-days for the varsity, a simple forty-five-minute walk after class, or anything in between, exercise will serve you well.
If you're pressed for time and you find yourself faced with the question of skipping your daily exercise or cutting something else out of your schedule - keep the exercise. Your daily dose of exercise will make you more focused and more alert, and will give you more stamina to meet the demands of your day.
"All through high school, I danced and played field hockey, so I didn't have to think about staying in shape and exercising. Once I got to college, I was so overwhelmed with everything that exercise was put on the back burner," Lyndsee explained. "I made it a goal to go to the gym three times a week, which I thought was reasonable and manageable. Something that really helps is to go with a friend. That way, it is harder for you to skip it. My friends and I went to the gym together all the time and after we would go get dinner together. Going with them made it something to look forward to."
"I was training for baseball in the fall and winter about three or four times a week," Dave noted. "Our workouts were split among weight training, swimming, and running, and I definitely felt better when I got the chance to go work out."
"I sucked at managing stress and staying healthy," Dan admitted. "In the end, I spent more time than I should have stressing about school work and not enough time exercising. Get in the habit of going to the gym, getting outside with friends, and uncovering new and healthy interests that you can pursue for the long haul. Most colleges and universities have astoundingly good fitness centers that are free and open almost twenty-four hours a day. With the varied schedule of the college day, you should have no excuse for not eating right and getting in shape. Plus, if you make this a consistent part of your daily life now, you will reap the benefits of becoming addicted to health for the rest of your life."
"Exercise and laying off the party scene were helpful to me," Jim added. "I also ate healthy and got a lot of sleep."
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