Top 5 College Student Stressors — and Stress Relievers

Let’s face it; college is a stressful time of life for many. Many more students have to worry about finances themselves, and oftentimes parents can contribute to student stress. This doesn’t even take into account stresses of homework, relationships, and generally navigating life as an adult. So, after surveying many of my classmates and friends, I have come up with the top five things that stress college students out, and five solutions that are effective stress relievers.

Top Five Stressors

5. Relationships

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been to college. Many relationships are started (and ended) throughout college years. Those who are in relationships have to deal with the stresses of arguments, seeing someone too much, seeing someone not enough, and those pesky long-distance relationships. Those who aren’t in relationships have to deal with the stresses of dating, awkward moments at parties, and the classic unrequited love. If you don’t think it’s stressful for a woman getting ready for a party, or for a guy getting ready to ask someone out, you must be living under a rock, or be the coolest person ever. In any case, college students get stressed when it comes to relationships.

4. Roommate Conflicts

We’ve all heard the horror stories of the dreadful roommate. Unfortunately, these stories often turn out to be true. College students are forced to live with people who may have different values, beliefs, schedules, and habits than they do. There’s nothing worse than having to sleep in the same room as someone you’d normally hate or never talk to. Clean freaks that get stuck with the slob roommate will naturally be stressed out. Light sleepers who are stuck with the snoring roommate (myself included) will get less sleep and have increased stress as a result. Non-drinkers who get stuck with the party-crazy roommate will have a whole slew of issues to deal with.

3. Time Management

Now more than ever, students are very involved with their universities. Students go to athletic events, parties, and class; they are members of clubs and teams; many rush for fraternities and sororities; and most students have jobs of some kind. Time is a huge stressor for many students. So many students lose sleep or feel as if they just don’t have enough time to accomplish what they need to accomplish. Managing time can be quite stressful for anyone as busy as the modern day college student.

2. Academics

This shouldn’t be surprising to any student or parent. The fact remains that more and more students are entering college. College students at universities across the country are entering school with higher GPAs and test scores than ever before. This has lead to increased competition in the classroom. Parents are putting intense pressure on their children to do well in college in order to obtain well-paying jobs after graduation. Additionally, students still have to balance all of their other activities while managing a seemingly ever-increasing course load. This leads to quite a bit of stress. Factor in students who have academic requirements for scholarships, clubs, jobs, or teams, and you have one big ball of stress in the form of academics.

1. Finances

At first I was surprised to see finances this high on the list. However, after consideration, it makes perfect sense. More and more students have to pay for college on their own, or with little assistance from their parents. Even those who have college paid for still have to deal with the expenses of books, food, and entertainment (let’s not forget that beer and liquor aren’t cheap). I see countless students studying for hours on end attempting to keep their GPA high enough to maintain their scholarships. Credit cards are extremely easy to come by for many students. An astonishing amount of college students are also getting into debt through credit cards and loans. Learning how to live on one’s own and navigate today’s complicated financial news and tips is stressful,, add in everything else college students have to worry about and it’s no wonder some students would rather drop out and get a job rather than continue.

Stress Relievers

This may seem like a grim post, but there are many solutions to relieve stress. I’ll give five of the most common stress relievers, but keep in mind there are many more.

1. Working Out

Physical activity is a great stress reliever. It’s healthy, and doesn’t have to be terribly time consuming in order to be effective. For the college student who wants to look more attractive, working out is one way to help that. Most universities have quality recreational facilities that are available for student use. Too few students take advantage of these facilities. If you are stressed, I’d suggest simply getting out of your dorm room and having a nice work out.

2. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

Sleep deprivation is like an epidemic on college campuses. Students stay up way too late, and get up way too early. Instead of partying on a Friday, why not take one day off and get some extra Zs? Stress can be relieved by forcing one’s self to maintain a regular sleep schedule. I know too many people who go to bed at 3AM one night, then try to go to sleep at 10PM the next because of an early exam. Set yourself a goal such as, “I will have my work completed by 11PM and I will go to bed by 12.” If you can meet this goal, you’ll be surprised to find yourself more refreshed than ever.

3. Listen to the Music

I know college students don’t need any excuses to walk around with those iPods. However, music shouldn’t be something just for in between classes. Take a few minutes out of the day to lie down and listen to your favorite music (even if people wouldn’t consider it calming music). Music has an effect on a variety of areas in the brain and can be quite relaxing. Not to mention, it’s a nice way to spend a study break. If you are feeling stressed by your roommate, just go for a walk and put some music on. I bet you’ll feel a lot better afterwards.

4. Eat Right

Yes, that’s easier said than done. Ramen Noodles are nice and inexpensive, but they’re pretty terrible for your body. Taking the time to cook yourself something healthy, or find a healthy place to eat on campus can do worlds for your body. Don’t be afraid to have a little comfort food now and then. When I’m stressed about a big exam, I’ll take a minute to have a bowl of ice cream in between study sessions. Once again, good tasting food can have a tremendous effect on the brain and contribute to the overall wellbeing of a student. Don’t skip meals either. There’s nothing more stressful than being tired, and hungry. Make time for breakfast before your morning class. Eating right will certainly help to reduce your stress in the long run.

5. Management

Time and finances always seem limited in college, and it leads to stress. If you simply manage them both, it won’t be as stressful. For time, make use of date books, calendars, planners, and anything else you need. Don’t over-stretch yourself and make room for relaxing time, eating, and sleeping. The busiest person I know isn’t nearly as stressed as me because she makes use of time management.

For finances, management is also a key component. If you have a credit card, don’t buy something unless you can afford to pay it off. Also, if you don’t need it, don’t get it. Too many people get credit cards and see a fountain of wealth. There are countless financial management seminars available for college students. Don’t be afraid to buy a financial management book either. If you’re really in a pinch, consult a professional. In any case, don’t let the stresses of finances dominate your life. You can be proactive and take control of reducing your stress.

I believe it was Forrest Gump who said that “college is very confusing times.” I think he was onto something. However, if you take control and work on relieving stress, you can truly enjoy college life to the fullest, and you won’t be nearly as confused and stressed.

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