12 Best Ways to Manage Stress: A College Student’s 101 Guide

Truth be told, there’s no avoiding stress when you’re in college. Just the pressure of figuring out how to settle your student loan debt will cause enough anxiety to last you a lifetime. 😓

But when left unchecked, college stress can lead to severe anxiety. This can negatively impact your academic record and make a good night’s sleep a thing of the past.

Doesn’t sound fun, does it? Good thing there are plenty of handy tricks to manage stress in college. Check them out below! 🧘‍♂️

1. Set Up a Learning Space With Minimal Distractions

If there’s one thing we’re sure of, it’s this: where there’s chaos, there’s stress. Regain control by setting up an optimized learning environment that discourages distractions.

While cozy coffee shops and local libraries can be great study spaces, they are also an easy way to be tempted away from your academic goals for the day.

Before you know it, a few hours (or even the whole day) have passed, and your list of tasks isn’t that much shorter.

Creating a comfortable and productive workspace at your dorm or apartment can reduce your desire to procrastinate, especially if the space caters to your study habits.

Need a visual reminder of your deadlines? Hang a cork board above your desk. Easily distracted? Download study apps that limit your use of YouTube and social media.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller, Actionable Tasks

Nothing can shut you down faster than being overwhelmed by pending coursework, unpaid bills, and keeping up a part-time job or side hustle.

But the kicker? If you freeze and let them all pile up, you’re only going to feel more stressed.

To overcome this challenge, you should break down major long-term objectives into realistic short-term goals. This will make it easier for you to plan your day and tick off items on your to-do list.

Of course, there may be just too much on your plate, and something’s gotta give. 🤷‍♀️

In this case, try emailing your professor respectfully and honestly and see if they can nudge a deadline further back.

3. Join Discussion and Support Groups on Discord (Or Similar Apps!)

Building connections — whether with friends who’ll listen to your rants or peers who’ll push you to read five more pages — can help you to decompress at the end of a long day.

So why not take advantage of the many online platforms to find a solid support system?

There are plenty of Discord servers out there dedicated to specific topics, such as T.S.Eliot poetry and advanced chemistry, open to anyone and everyone. You can even create your own server!

If Discord isn’t your thing, try using Google Meet or Zoom to review coursework with your classmates ahead of a big exam.

READ MORE: How to Make Friends in College: Our Staff’s Top 10 Tips

4. Include Socializing in Your Weekly Schedule

Okay, making time for a weekend get-together with friends or a solo movie night when there’s so much to do may appear to be a little nonsensical.

But before you dismiss the idea, hear us out: laughter is a great stress-buster!

Setting aside time to have fun with the people who matter most to you can reduce the tension that builds up in your body.

When you give yourself a break to see your partner or host a weekend game night, you’re doing your tired, stressed brain a favor.

5. Fine-Tune Your Bedroom to Get More Sleep

Let’s face it; sleep is the first thing to go when you need to prepare for an exam or crank out a research paper.

12 Best Ways to Manage Stress: A College Student’s 101 Guide

Sometimes pulling an all-nighter can’t be avoided, but making this a habit doesn’t do your body good. Prepare to say hello to lousy memory, stunted muscle growth, mood swings, and more!

If you have trouble getting a full eight hours of shut-eye, you can customize your bedroom by using darker curtains or warmer lights.

You could also try adding a white noise machine to help you relax and, of course, avoid using your phone an hour before bedtime — blue light from your screens kills drowsiness.

6. Stock up on Healthier, Wholesome Snacks (Avoid Stress Eating)

For many of us, being stressed comes with munching on snacks. There’s nothing like the comfort of eating a gallon of ice cream or a pack of ramen noodles to get you through an intense study session.

But is all this junk food good for you in the long run? The answer is no! Getting used to unhealthy treats as a reward can be a disaster waiting to happen.

Instead, it’s a good idea to load up on healthier treats (or meals) like overnight oats and homemade granola instead of chocolates and Doritos.

Eating fresh, wholesome food keeps your brain working properly. Plus, your body will thank you if you avoid excess alcohol and energy drinks.

READ MORE: Smart Eating: 14 Best Study Snacks to Power Your Brain

7. Fall in Love With Dorm Room Fitness

Keep stress away by getting in as much exercise as you can! Regular exercise can keep you in tip-top shape while reducing stress and fatigue.

Another bonus is that physical activity releases endorphins that keep you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

But when you’re a busy college student, you may struggle to find time to go to the gym. That’s where your dorm comes in!

With a fitness app or YouTube video, it’s easy to transform your bedroom into a small gym.

You can pick and choose between instructional videos (free or for a small fee) that teach you to dance, do Tae-bo, or ballet the stress away — for as little as 15 minutes a day.

You can also opt to buy a cheap yoga mat, some resistance bands, or weights to complete your setup.

READ MORE: 15 Easy Tips to Avoid the Freshman 15

8. Treat Yourself to an Awesome Me-Day

We’ve talked about rest and seeing your friends, but sometimes all you need is some time for yourself to recharge ahead of a new week.

If you’re really pressed for time, it doesn’t even have to be a whole day! Book a two-hour massage or spend time with a good book and a glass of wine.

If you have the cash, spoil yourself by purchasing an item you’ve had your eye on for a while.

9. Know When to Say ‘No’

Stress comes from the pressure to perform at your absolute best in all areas of your life — even when it isn’t possible anymore. After all, you don’t have to say yes or agree to every invite!

It’s not rude or selfish to decline once in a while. Setting boundaries can work wonders for your mental health and stress levels.

Take a raincheck if a get-together seems like too much work after a hard day. If a 15-page paper for a minor class won’t fit today’s study schedule, try to squeeze it into tomorrow’s plan.

10. Find Time to Pursue Whatever Makes You Happy

Sometimes, swapping your rest to work on a passion project can be the best move to release stress and calm your mind.

You might believe that days off are better used for sleeping in or binge-watching a new series, but you won’t regret choosing to do something active and enjoyable.

Whether it’s adding a new painting to your collection, customizing bags and sneakers, or finding interest in a new sport, these fun, enjoyable hobbies can give new meaning to your life (and possibly some extra money).

READ MORE: The 67 Top Side Hustles for College Students to Make Fast Cash

11. Write Down Your Feelings for the Day

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a writer; dumping all of your thoughts and emotions for the day on a piece of paper can be therapeutic.

You’re not only letting off some steam but chronicling your experiences in a journal allows you to pinpoint your major stressors and triggering patterns.

Becoming aware of what stresses you out can help you manage these factors. So, why don’t you try it out, even just for a week or two?

12. Know Where to Find Help

When you start to feel that your stress is growing into something much more serious, you should reach out for help.

Now more than ever, colleges have increased their efforts to make mental health resources more accessible to their students to guide them through stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression.

Talking to a professional about your burdens could be a step in the right direction. They can help you develop a strategy for when things are rough or simply remind you that you are not alone.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).

There’s no getting around it: you can’t escape stress when you’re in college. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to manage your stress before it gets out of control.

Now’s the time to start taking back control! 💪