Thursday, October 25, 2007

College Stress

I Think I Slept Last Night
By Therese Whelan

“Enjoy it while it lasts, college was the best years of my life.” This sentiment has been told to college students for years by older relatives or parents. However, for many college students today, life is not carefree and relaxing. It is stressful and they spend a good part of their “best years” just trying to get by day to day.

Tedious textbooks to read, tests every other day, 10 page papers completed at 3 am along with some leftover pizza and just as you’re dozing off your roommate barges in and wake you up. There are many reasons why college students today feel overly stressed. But by learning about what is stressing us out, we can understand how to better manage our time and maybe even have some free time to catch up on all that lost sleep.

According to the University of Florida Counseling Center, there are four primary causes of stress. The Environment we live in plays a big part in causing stress. New York is a loud, crowded city where people are always in a rush. Either you thrive in it or you barely survive. Your thoughts can cause stress as well. Some students feel huge pressure to do as well as they did in high school, or have negative thoughts about themselves.

In a city of almost nine million, there will always be someone smarter, prettier or happier than you. Others have physiological conditions such as illness, injury, and lack of sleep or poor nutrition. Believe it or not, greasy takeout and 40 ounces of beer can cause major stress. The last thing that is a big factor in college student’s stress is social factors. Figuring out how to make friends, trying to meet the demands of a part time job, and moving away from home are all social stressors.

Stress manifests itself in many forms. According to the Counseling Center, there are physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms that can signal you are overly stressed. Symptoms include difficulty sleeping, headaches, anxiety, mood swings, depression, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating.

So what’s a college student to do? When there are a million things to do every week of course, stress is expected. But all that racing just to keep up leaves little time for a balanced lifestyle. It is important to try to find a balance. Throw in a piece of fruit every once and a while and drink some water, maybe skip the late late show on TV, head to the library instead of trying to concentrate in a crowded dorm room, go for a walk, lie in the park, or see a movie.

Many students have trouble with time management. Procrastination is very easy addiction to fall into, and hard to break away from. College is filled with choices and there are many ways to fill the hours in a day. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little pleasure for the relief of knowing your work is done for the day.

It helps to have someone to talk to. A friend, a relative or someone who can really understand you and help you see a new perspective, not just some peer to commiserate with. Also, there are many self-relaxation techniques you can learn to help de-stress and relax. Some people like yoga or meditation; others find that just sitting in a quiet spot for a while helps clear your head. Read a favorite book, or put on that music that makes you fell happy inside and just lie down on your bed for a few minutes.

Overall, many college students are stressed because it is a lot of work figuring out who you want to become. Teachers and parents hound you to declare a major, and many times we take classes we don’t love but put up with. Find out what makes you happy and then worry about if it will turn into a degree or a job. If you want to be a folk signer or design children’s sneakers, maybe that biology major isn’t for you.

Sure college these days can make even the most relaxed teen a sleep-deprived zombie. But stress doesn’t have to be the defining factor of your college experience. They may not be the best years of your life, but they can be pretty good ones if you can find the right balance.

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