First, let’s define what we mean by stress. Stress is an arousal of your sympathetic nervous system. Chronic stress means your sympathetic nervous system is aroused for extended periods…hours, days, or even weeks on end.
College life stressors may include…
- Roommates and personality clashes
- Pop quizzes or final exams
- Financial issues
- Peer pressures
- Sleep deprivation
The symptoms of stress that a college student may experience are…
- Body symptoms — ulcers, back ache, gastrointestinal problems
- Mind symptoms — racing thoughts, trouble concentrating, feeling confused
- Emotional symptoms — irritability, anger, resentment, anxiety
- Spiritual — feel distant from God, don’t think much about Him
- Relational — feel distant from loved ones, no heart to heart sharing, conflicts
Common causes of stress and what to do about it
Time crunches — self discipline is one of your most effective means of fighting stress. Use a weekly planner. Determine what your weekly and daily priorities are and write them in your planner. Get into the habit of making your to do lists before you turn out the lights at night. Take 10 minutes in the morning before you rush off to class to review your planner. Think about what else needs to get done that day. Write it in your planner. Look at your planner through out the day to remind yourself of your goals and tasks.
Inability to say “No” — once you start using a weekly planner it will be easier for you to say no. In fact make sure you schedule your study time as well as your classes. When someone asks you to do something, always consult your schedule first. Say, “I’ll get back to you on that” if you don’t have your schedule with you. That buys you some time to consult your schedule and make a disciplined decision that will help you, not hurt you, in the long run
Genuine crisis — There are genuine crises that are beyond our control. As the saying goes “Stuff Happens!” This is where it is important to have a support system of family and friends whom you trust and be willing to reach out for help…preferably before your stress reaches critical mass.
Relationship conflicts — being in college means you as well as your friends are in major life transitions. You are growing into adulthood. Wanting to depend more on yourself and less on your parents. It’s now more than ever that you need the wisdom of God. This can be a very troubling time in relationships as you fight temptation, learn that not everyone is who they say they are, and discover what it means to walk in obedience. To cope with relationship stress it’s important to make good choices in friends. Hang with those who live by the same values as you. Don’t let others pressure you into doing things your gut or God says “no” to.
One of the most common relationship stressors is getting involved with pathologically needy people. People who will suck the life out of you. They are takers and not givers. They come in different packages, but the results are the same. You will end up feeling drained and used at the end of the relationship. They will often ask for your advice, pouring out their many problems to you, but will rarely follow through on what you suggest.
Learn to set healthy boundaries in these situations. It is necessary that you be able to put distance between yourself and these individuals in order to manage your stress effectively. You may need to refer these kinds of friends to a counselor who is more skilled in helping them (however it is unlikely they will go.). You can also talk with your RA about these relationships.
Financial Stressors — Most college students have very little disposable income (money left over after all your bills are paid). Therefore, start a weekly budget. Take a few minutes each week to manage your money. Give yourself an allowance for those special times with friends. Think creatively about how to save money. For example make lattes and chai’s at home rather than buying them at your local coffee shoppe! Create an emergency fund. And I don’t mean Mom and Dad. Take 10% of your weekly income off the top and tithe it. Then another 10% and put in your savings/emergency fund. This is the kind of discipline that could make you a millionaire by the time your 45 years old.
Sleep deprivation and nutrition — because college students are often over worked and underpaid they often suffer from sleep deprivation and the effects of poor nutrition. Living on coffee and a few hours of sleep as well as lots of cheap starchy foods like Raman Noodles. Getting proper sleep is a necessity to your overall health and ability to perform academically. Therefore guard your sleep with your life! Budget 8 hours a night. Make meal plans as well. Plans that include easy but nutritious feed. Beans and brown rice is a cheap but nutritionally dense meal. Don’t forget to eat as many leafy green salads, fresh fruits and dark colored raw Veggies like carrot sticks and red peppers.