Beginning college usually means heading off to unfamiliar territory to live among strangers while facing significant academic and social challenges – typically while still a teenager. So it would be unusual if people facing day one at college didn’t have issues with stress. The good news is that millions of people have done it, and their legacy is a mountain of information on coping with the stress of going away to college.
What Is Stress and How Does Stress Affect Us?
Stress is your body's response to demands that may disrupt your normal life or routine. Feeling some stress in life is normal and can actually help you meet a deadline or react quickly in scary situations. While not all stress is bad, being in a state of chronic stress isn’t healthy. Rising college freshmen know the feeling, so it's important to know what stress is and how to deal with it.
In simple terms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explores common symptoms you may not know are linked to stress, including:
- Feeling powerless
- Sadness and other symptoms of depression
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Sleep problems
- Tension and irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Fear and anxiety about the future
- Difficulty making decisions
How Can You Beat Stress?
Don’t worry, because there are ways you can successfully manage stress. Exercise, proper diet, adequate sleep, and relaxation techniques are the basic and essential defensive weapons in the war on stress. Remember to take a deep breath. Check out some apps that can help you relax and take a breath.
Tip the Odds in Your Favor
Academic prowess and overall campus comfort can be yours if you exercise common sense before ever opening the textbooks. Here are some tips to help make that happen:
- Get organized. From packing to picking classes, know what you need to do, how to do it, and when to do it – and don’t procrastinate.
- Do the work. Be it packing intelligently before leaving for school or studying to make the grade once you are there, preparation is an incredible way to head off stress.
- Avoid surprises. That means you definitely want to attend orientation (most schools require it), and be sure to use online connections and social media to explore your soon-to-be home and the people linked to it.
- Set reasonable expectations, and be ready to adapt.
- Stay connected with friends and family once school begins, and resolve any relationship issues before heading to school.
- Get engaged on campus as soon as possible. Connect with peers, faculty, and administrators.
The great thing about college is that a campus is a natural support system for those willing to embrace it, and that includes institutional lifelines such as those provided by schools.
Health and Wellness, USF Is a Great Example of a Campus Safety Net
There are people and resources ready to help you cope with the stress of going away to college. Health and Wellness, USF staff say most of the common challenges college students face involve establishing new routines and relationships, learning how to be responsible with newfound freedoms, and determining the best ways to slow down and take care of yourself.
Here are some basic stress management solutions:
- Break down large projects into smaller, manageable parts. And learn how to manage your time.
- Create daily to-do lists, and check off tasks. It always feel great to see that you’re getting things done.
- Exercise can help reduce stress and boost energy and memory. USF Campus Recreation offers state-of-the-art equipment, group fitness classes, and outdoor recreation adventure trips.
- Be smart about your money. Money management tools can make a difference.
- Eat well, and stay active.
- Sleep seven to nine hours every night. Set a sustainable pace.
- Find your college community. Friends and family are a built-in support system, but don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling, which is offered on college campuses.
Health and Wellness, USF is the type of on-campus safety net USF provides to enhance students’ physical and emotional well-being. At USF, that begins with the basics, including locations where you can use a massage chair, snooze in a nap pod, and grab some fruit and a sleep pack. Sleep packs and sleep resources can be found in the Wellness Centers on campus.
The resources Health and Wellness, USF uses to help students can help you, too. Next-level support includes success and wellness coaching, health clinics and counseling, mental health screenings, meditation groups, online self-help therapy, and violence prevention programs.
About Joe Emerson
Joe Emerson spent 30 years as a magazine and newspaper reporter, editor and copyeditor who turned to freelancing after 20 years with The Tampa Tribune, which closed in 2016 after 125 years of serving the Tampa Bay area. Writing and delivering valuable information remain his passion.