How to Cope with Stress During the First Year of College

College is a time when young adults are especially prone to stress, but this is especially true when you’re a freshman.

Young Man Studying At Night

For one, it may be the first time for you to be out on your own and taking care of yourself.  Moving to a dorm, meeting new people, and just learning to navigate the college life may cause enough stress to make any freshman want to climb in bed, pull up the covers, and never come out! Academic pressures can also create stress. College professors are not as lenient and as helpful as high school teachers and in some classes your final grade in the class may be based on just the final exam!  Talk about pressure! All of this stress is a natural part of the college experience. The key is to learn good coping mechanisms.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stress can be beneficial by helping people develop coping and adaptation skills. However, when stress is severe enough to impair your daily life and self-care, it can become a problem.

Is Your Stress Out of Control?

It’s natural to be anxious before taking a test or turning in a big assignment, but these feelings shouldn’t rule your life. The CDC warns that if you find yourself having physical reactions to stress such as headaches, back pains, stomach problems, or insomnia, it may be a sign that your stress has reached critical levels and you need to get some help.

Managing Stress

Especially during peak times of stress, it is very important to take care of yourself. Don’t let the fear of a poor grade on an assignment keep you up all night perfecting a project or studying. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and getting plenty of exercise are all just as important as your academic performance.

Being physically healthy will help you maintain your mental health as well. Along the lines of mental health, give yourself a break now and then. Do things for fun and be social. Let yourself have a night off from studying. You shouldn’t have to kill yourself to get good grades. If you find you can’t maintain a healthy outlook on school or life, it may be time to talk to a counselor or at least a trusted friend. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, your friends are dealing with similar feelings.

Drugs and Alcohol

One of the main coping mechanisms many college students partake in as a way to deal with stress are drugs and alcohol. While they may help temporarily, these substances will lead to even more stress. Even if the night itself doesn’t cause stress for legal or emotional reasons, the alcohol takes a physical toll on your body, making it harder to take care of yourself, maintain physical health, and maintain your academic performance that has you stressed to begin with. Just because others choose to live a certain way and make it seem “normal” or expected, doesn’t mean you have to join them. Take responsibility for your own health and make your own choices.

Always remember, if you feel in danger in any way or have thoughts of suicide, reach out to someone who can help you. A good place to start is the Youth Mental Health Line that can be reached at 1-888-568-1112.

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