Smart Strategies for Dealing With Stress
Between juggling finances, academics, social lives and relationships, it’s no surprise many college students feel totally stressed. In small doses (read: finals), stress isn’t all that bad after all, a little pressure can be just the push you need to reach your performance peak. Sustained stress, however, can manifest itself into all sorts of problems such as depression, weight gain and sleep problems, causing your emotional and physical health to seriously suffer. But relax: We’ve outlined some of the most common stressors with ways to decompress.
ACADEMIC STRESS College can be an academic wake-up call for new students who are unaccustomed to large amounts of reading, difficult writing assignments and the constant flow of quizzes and exams. Particularly when thrust into a competitive academic environment, the pressure is on to maintain an acceptable GPA. Whether applying for a special program or under pressure to get or maintain a scholarship, the never-ending workload can put some students over the edge.
Nicole DeAngelis is a senior at Lehigh University who’ll be pursuing a master’s degree. “The pressure of maintaining a really good GPA while balancing Greek life and volunteer work can really seem overwhelming on some days,” she says. “Just thinking about all the responsibilities and requirements was stressful in and of itself.”
The Fix: Transcendental Meditation (TM) can still your mind and induce a calm that will boost productivity and make you feel less overwhelmed when your brain is on overload. Says TM practitioner Ken Chawkin: “The mind goes within when you engage in this type of meditation. You ‘fall awake,’ and in this state, one can unlock a field of infinite happiness. As a result, the brain becomes more coherent and organized, enhancing day-to-day functionality.”
Chawkin attests that the benefits of TM can easily beat the feeling of a power nap and help beat fatigue by putting you in a profound state of rest, even while physically awake.
TM is a seven-step program taught by trained instructors. Courses come with a price tag, but Chawkin affirms that student loans and scholarships (available through the David Lynch Foundation).
DEALING WITH FINANCIAL STRESS
Ugh, finances. Money-related stress is common in today’s economy as the finances of many parents falter, leaving students to take even more responsibility in money-making and budget management. Balancing a checkbook in order to cover college tuition, books and school supplies all while scrounging for pocket dough to cover the fun stuff is far from easy.
The Fix: Budget-tracking can alleviate money woes by helping to identify where your green goes. Keeping records will help your brain better synthesize the bottom line and visualize where you’re overspending and where you can afford to cut back. Excel sheets or money-management software, such as Quicken, can help you get organized.
“The main thing behind this is not to see how much you’re spending versus saving, but it’s great to see where you are spending the money,” says Ernst & Young consultant Ben Rosenberg. “Try putting your expenses into categories, such as food, nightlife or clothing. Then you can more easily see that you are spending 90 percent of your money on going out or buying drinks. From there, you can cut back. The trick is that you don’t always have to be so conservative with spending overall, but cutting back in one area can help alleviate some level of financial stress.”
DEALING WITH RELATIONSHIP STRESS With new flings and old flames alike, college couples often argue about time spent together, time spent apart, time spent with disliked friends and so forth. And for students in long-distance relationships, the added stress of speculating on your significant other’s every move from miles away can weigh hard on your emotional state.
The Fix: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a needle-free, “emotional acupuncture” that uses fingertip tapping to neutralize or reduce negative energy such as upset, worry and fear. Says EFT practitioner Ava Stoecker: “EFT can be directed at whatever is bothering you. Within just a few minutes, it can be a very valuable tool for anyone, including college students.” For an introductory demonstration on how to implement EFT, check out this YouTube vid.
DEALING WITH SOCIAL STRESS Managing one’s social life while simultaneously achieving good grades and working a job is stressful enough and even more so with the pressures of partaking in social events you really don’t have time for.
Says Marie Scott*, a senior at Muhlenberg College: “Sometimes, my friends all want to go out on a Friday night and, because of all the schoolwork I have, I always feel like I shouldn’t go. But when I see Facebook pictures uploaded on stuff I missed out on, I get stressed that my social circle is slipping away.”
The Fix: Social media abstinence can help alleviate stress, according to Dr. Sue Edbril, a clinical psychologist in Boston. What, give up Facebook!?! At the very least, Edbril suggests limiting your visits to such social media sites.
“New research coming out says there are different aspects of Facebook that are making adolescents anxious and depressed. Students can be sensitive when it comes to feeling left out.”
Edbril encourages students to analyze their habits when it comes to monitoring friends on social media sites, particularly in terms of events you cannot attend due to academic work or club responsibilities. “The stress students experience is really about being connected in a certain way and not missing a step,” says Edbril. “One recommendation would be to avoid looking at social media sites during your most emotionally vulnerable times of day.” You can do it. You know you can.