Jessica is an NSU doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program at NSU. She currently works as a writing tutor at the Tutoring and Testing Center.
While stress can certainly light a fire under us to accomplish a task, it is never good to experience excessive stress. For college students, stress — and all that comes with it — is a huge factor in academic success. Several studies demonstrate how stress impacts concentration, focus and our ability to retain information. Ultimately, these symptoms impact your test-taking abilities, your writing performance and your time management skills. Here are some things to think about while you’re figuring out what you need to do to be on top of your game:
Is the stressor within your control?
Yes, it is: Think about the issue itself for a moment and ask yourself what specific details of the issue need to be resolved before you can move forward. Do you have too much on your plate? Do you need to let go of some responsibilities? Do you need to bring in a friend or a mentor to help you with a class project? Are you experiencing conflict with your roommate and need to figure out how to address it?
No, it’s not: All you can do is take things one day at a time and try to do things to make yourself feel better or take your mind off of the issue until it is resolved. This is where knowing how you react to stress is important. If you feel stress in your body, notice how it shows up. If your muscles are tense and you feel tight all the time, try yoga or get a massage. If your sleep cycle changes, you can either increase your exercise regimen to tire yourself out or find a way to be more social to avoid sleeping too much. If you feel stress more in your mind and it changes your mood, there are activities that can help you channel your negative energy into something positive. If you’re angry, take a kickboxing class to get out your frustration and burn some calories. If you’re constantly thinking about the problem without giving yourself a break, there are free apps like Headspace and Worry Watch that are designed to help calm, relax or distract you, depending on your preference.
What type of stress are you experiencing?
Is it social? Talk to people you trust to get some new perspectives on what you’re facing. They could provide insight on how to handle the issue.
Is it academic? Use your resources. Your professors, supplemental instructors, upperclassmen, friends and so on are not ornamental. Talk to them about your concerns. If they can’t help you, they can at least point you in the right direction.
Is it health-related? Trust your physical and mental health care providers to support you and give you whatever tools you need to navigate your situation.
Does your lifestyle contribute to the stress you are experiencing? Are you stressed out about your grades because you miss homework and exam deadlines?
Do you rely on coffee or energy drinks to keep you awake, increasing the impact of stress on your body? Do you procrastinate and leave all of your obligations and commitments for the last minute so you don’t have enough time to get your work done? Consider curbing these habits to reduce stress.
Some of the best ways to learn how to handle stress and stressful life events start with figuring out what is stressing you out and how it affects you. Once you identify the sources of your stress and what you feel and look like when you are stressed, you can go into problem-solving mode.