What is Stress
Stress is defined by the Mental Health Foundation as having an overwhelming feeling or being unable to cope with pressure mentally and emotionally. It is how our body responds to pressure. In college or university, it could be triggered by various factors such as your academic work, dealing with uncomfortable people, money matters, and trying to achieve balance in life. College stress is real, could potentially be heavy and destructive, and needs to be alleviated and managed for the health and performance of each student.
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Table of Contents
- What is Stress
- Academic Stress
- Dealing with Uncomfortable People
- Money Matters as a College Student
- Achieving Balance to Alleviate College Stress
It’s not news that students get stressed by their academic workload which then leads to burnout. Excessive levels of this academic stress can even lead to depression, nervousness, anxiety, and other stress-related disorders, according to Medium. Whether it be because of a need or due to the competitiveness of the environment, this stress could still be alleviated with the right methods and consistent practice.
Unhealthy Stress Caused by a Heavy Workload
Some stress is actually healthy and could be motivating. However, what happens when you experience unhealthy levels of college stress? Normally, students take on a full workload but that workload isn’t always realistically manageable (especially if you’re an architecture student). What are the methods that could help you cope when you’re going through an overwhelming amount of work to do?
- Get a planner. A planner helps you see your day, your week, even your month. Although seeing them all at once could actually make you feel overwhelmed, a planner which helps you see your day one at a time could help you focus on one day at a time. With a planner, you get to list all deadlines and therefore focus on ticking one box at a time.
- Ask for a helping hand. It is not news that some students work together and help each other when the work or subject gets too heavy and hard. Having a study buddy or partner when it comes to doing your work could help you do things faster and could help remind you that you’re not alone in what you do.
- Take regular breaks. Although it may seem ideal to be able to do work for long periods of time especially when you’re under the state of flow, sometimes it’s just not possible especially if you do not have the needed energy. Taking regular breaks or practicing pomodoro could actually help you do more in short bursts of time.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Being in university, it could be tempting to try all of the activities and join multiple organizations in order to maximize your learning and experience. However, it is wise to remember that whatever we place ourselves in comes with responsibilities and taking on too much could harm us later on. Make sure that when you’re trying to get yourself into things, you’ll be realistically able to handle everything that will be placed on your plate.
When the amount of hard work does not equate to the results
What people don’t often tell you is that hard work doesn’t always pay off. When it comes to planning goals, we may tend to fall in survivorship bias where we basically fail to consider those who failed despite their hard work. The amount of effort you put in won’t necessarily determine the amount or quality of rewards you’ll reap. It’s another reason why people talk about working smart instead of working hard. What do you do when your efforts aren’t leading to your desired results?
- When you get your results, reflect on them. What do you think went right throughout the process? In what areas do you think you have failed and why? Make sure that your reflection does not come with judgement as you can always do better.
- When you ask the winners, ask the losers as well. To avoid survivorship bias, let’s look at both of the stories. If both of them did the same work, what could be the factors that led to different results?
- If a system is inefficient, it’s time to get rid of it. Each of us work differently in different circumstances. Even if others claim for a specific system to work, you’ll know if it doesn’t for you. Don’t stop trying and experimenting to find where or how you work best.
- Life is unfair and sometimes we have to deal with it. It sucks to hear but in university, not all professors will be fair. You can always do your best and sometimes it may not look enough but it is. At the end of the day, you know how much you’ve learned and how much you’ve tried.
Dealing with Uncomfortable People
In university, we’re bound to meet lots of people and it’s not all the time when we meet someone we’re comfortable with. Being with people who make us feel uncomfortable can be stressful to deal with especially if it seems like we have no way out of the situation we’d be in. We don’t have to deal with people unnecessarily but what can we do if we have to?
- Understand your emotions. Try to observe when you feel and why you feel what you feel. Sometimes, the cause of us being uncomfortable is the other person while other times it could be social anxiety talking.
- If you know the when’s and the why’s, you can start to think of the appropriate solution. Sometimes, speaking out about what we feel can make way for the much needed communication and compromise. Not everybody will be open to such conversations but if there is a way for either of you to do so, it could lessen or remove such an uncomfortable environment.
- Limit contact because it’s not you, it’s them. Sometimes, there are people who may not be worth your time or energy. It’s okay to limit your contact when you can, especially if you know you’ve already tried to communicate.
Money Matters as a College Student
Money could play a role in college stress particularly with the tuition fees, allowances, and part-time jobs. Although most have their parents to have their backs, it’s not always a smooth flow for everyone. What could you do in these situations?
According to Moneymax, college tuition in the Philippines increases about 10% every year. It could potentially play a huge role in what course a student will take despite his or her career goals. Taking on a course or degree you don’t particularly like will definitely cause or elevate college stress however there are different companies and foundations that could help you pay for tuition which could still help you pursue what you truly want to pursue.
There are different types of scholarships and you can ask your college or university what those are that they offer or accept. There are academic scholarships, scholarships based on merit and need, and scholarships for athletes. Academic scholarships are scholarships that are purely based on your grades (for example, graduating as valedictorian or salutatorian in your high school). Scholarships based on merit and need are those that will check on your background (for example, to see if your family cannot afford such tuition) and still include your grades. Scholarships for athletes speak for itself.
Rappler also lists different scholarships offered by the Philippine government.
Sometimes, these scholarships come with allowances which could help you get through some expenses in college and therefore could help you with college stress.
Getting a part-time job while being a college student could definitely help when it comes to paying for tuition or managing expenses. I have friends from architecture school who did work part-time as baristas whilst other friends worked part-time in rendering student services for other students. There are different jobs you could apply for whether or not they relate to what course or degree you are taking. The important thing is they would easily fit in your schedule without you ending up burning yourself out, and that they give a sufficient impact when it comes to helping with your expenses.
Achieving Balance to Alleviate College Stress
We would often hear the words burnout, not having enough time with loved ones, or not having your me-time when we get too caught up with academic work. To avoid or alleviate college stress, some people aim to achieve balance in order to have variety in their life.
Avoiding or Dealing with Burnout
When we forget to rest, burnout occurs. We exhaust ourselves as a result of continuous and excessive physical, mental, and emotional stress. Burnout due to college stress could be damaging and it’s not always easy to get out of. Because of what causes burnout — exhaustion — we can derive the ways we can deal with it.
- Talk it out. Whether it’s with your professor, your peers, or your family and loved ones, it helps to talk and discuss how you’re feeling. They may be able to provide you with solutions or if not, it is always helpful when someone listens to whatever it is we’re feeling or struggling with.
- Get enough rest. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, taking enough breaks, and eating the right amount of healthy food. The more work you have to do, the more energy you’ll be needing.
- Exercise. Aside from being good for your body, exercise is great for your mental health. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day will give you multiple health benefits.
- Have some variety. Doing the same task or the same work for long periods of time could take its toll on you. Try to get back to hobbies you once enjoyed or start new ones.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
Highland Springs lists ten benefits of spending time with family. It actually improves your mental health, helps you perform well academically, lowers your risk of behavioural problems, boosts your self-confidence, helps you with conflict resolution, and reduces stress — among the many other listed benefits. Spending time with the people you love means making time for people that matter to you since life isn’t all about work and study.
Don’t miss out on your “Me-time”
More than taking yourself out on a date that could look similar to a romantic date but is actually different, me-time allows you to be mindful of yourself and give attention to your mind and body. It will help you relieve your college stress as you refocus on what’s going on with you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
During this time, you can also do things that you love doing such as reading a book, playing your favorite game, going for a walk, getting your nails done, etc. Me-time is like having a meditation while you do what you’d like to do for yourself.
There’s a lot of potential stressors while being a college student. Reflecting and coming up with appropriate solutions will help you get through and alleviate the college stress that could so heavily weigh on you.