Address your stress

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed in college — here’s how to deal with it.

Erin Lengas

ItâÄôs that time again âÄî the time when college studentsâÄô lives begin to pick up and stress levels start to rise. Right now, about a month into the semester, professors cut any âÄúbeginning of the yearâÄù wiggle room. First exams creep up then assignments and reading intensify, and jobs and student groups are in full swing.

I have never managed stress in the best ways, and coupled with homesickness, it can sometimes get the best of me. And I know IâÄôm not the only one: Stress tends to be a universal problem among college students.

To begin managing my stress, I make a list of things that are overwhelming me. Seeing stressors on paper makes them almost tangible and can help students recognize where their anxiety stems from. Once I realize the source of my stress, I can more easily understand how to deal with it.

Working out always makes me feel relaxed, alert and, of course, healthy. Elle Woods wasnâÄôt kidding when she sang the praises of endorphins in âÄúLegally Blonde: The Musical.âÄù Exercise does release endorphins and those endorphins, the brainâÄôs feel-good neurotransmitters, do make you happy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Exercise also increases serotonin in the brain, which in turn increases mental clarity.

Although schedules might be too tight to work out every day, try to make it a priority. Along with all the great aforementioned effects, working out also eliminates a common stress for students âÄî staying in shape.

I also attempt to eliminate stress by keeping myself organized. Filling out a planner with assignments, readings, exams and reminders for the semester can help. Some people may poke fun, but this way, every syllabus is in one place and you will always know exactly what to do to stay on task.

I still struggle with the lesson that taking study breaks actually aids in the study process. For me, wasting any amount of time that I could spend studying is detrimental. This explains why I am two months behind on my magazines and favorite television shows. I refuse to take a break and enjoy myself when I have work to do.

However, setting aside an hour or two to do an enjoyable activity is more beneficial than harmful. Participating in a sport, watching a favorite television show, or reading magazines will boost your mood.  The break from your books gives your brain time to refresh so you can return to your studies more focused.

Laughter really is the best medicine. The most fun way to lighten your mood is simply to crack up. The mental and emotional health website at the University of Michigan says, âÄúPeople with a developed sense of humor typically have a stronger immune system.âÄù The site also says people who laugh regularly have lower standing blood pressure and reduced stress.

If these quick fixes donâÄôt help alleviate your stress and you are worried you might have a more serious problem, consider talking to someone. Start with a friend or family member. They might provide the advice you need to relax. Otherwise, Boynton Health Service on campus offers mental health services, like therapy visits.

Regardless of the source or amount, stress will affect everyone at some point during college. For some of us, it is a dark cloud that hangs over us throughout the semester. Just remember, although life can seem overwhelming, it is not unmanageable. Exercising, getting organized, taking study breaks or simply cracking a smile can help. Before you know it, you will be traveling home for winter break, and although the real weather will be cold and dreary, your little stress cloud will have cleared to blue skies and sunshine.