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Learning how to deal with stress

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Learning how to deal with stress

Stress: It's an unavoidable element of college life. Between late-night studying, new social environments and struggling toward financial independence, it's no wonder that the ability to handle stress can make or break a college career.

College underclassmen may have the more extreme problems with stress, and are more likely to feel that their stress is unbearable. According to a study by Dr. Ranjita Misra reported in The American Journal of Health Studies, these younger students may have more problems with stress because of underdeveloped coping skills and weaker social supports systems that come with a transition from living at home to living at school.

This group of students faces a unique set of stresses that are academic as well as personal. First- and second-years need to adjust to a new and more intense academic environment, as well as make decisions that will have an impact on the rest of their lives, such as declaring a major.

Given this unique combination of stressors, it is no surprise that Misra also found that most of the stress reported by underclassmen was somewhat self-imposed. "Students' perception of the extensive knowledge base required and the perception of an inadequate time to develop it are all considered academic stressors," she reported.

Still, while some of this stress may be inevitable, it doesn't have to be unbearable.

Experts agree that the best ways to cope with stress is to expect it, target the source and adjust to keep normal stress from becoming paralyzing anxiety. College students should realize that their new academic environment comes with unprecedented pressures, and they should prepare themselves accordingly.

As the year progresses and tensions build, students should find the source of their anxieties. Whether it is a particularly tough concept or a professor who seems too tough, targeting the source means that students can decide where they need to focus time and attention. Lastly, adjusting to work through that trouble spot ensures that pressure is a motivating factor and not an impediment.

Time management and organization are also key ingredients to keep stress from taking over your life. In a report for the Journal of College Student Development, Amy Lahmers found that "time management ability was positively associated with GPA;" this was because "better time management ability increased the effectiveness with which time was used."

Simple things like making lists, breaking down large tasks into smaller assignments and staying on top of due dates can keep academic stress from getting out of hand.

Despite every effort to keep pressure productive, at some point in any college career stress will become overwhelming. One of the easiest ways to regain control can be as simple as putting on a pair of running shoes or going to the on-campus gym. "Exercise relaxes your muscles, helps you sleep better and increases the flow of blood to your brain which releases endorphins into your bloodstream," Vanderbilt University learning specialist Carolyn Ebbit tells Campus Life. "All of [these] will boost your performance."

When academic anxiety becomes more than a workout can handle, most schools offer on-campus mental-health resources.

Both Colorado College and University of Colorado-Colorado Springs have on-campus counseling resources with a full-time professional staff available. Students can receive short-term one-on-one counseling for free or reduced costs. For more information, Colorado College students should call Boettcher Health Center at 389-6384; UCCS students can contact the University Counseling Center at 262-3265. Pikes Peak Community College offers stress management workshops through Student Support Services at 540-7084. Other students can get information and referrals from their student resource centers.

-- Lola Garcia


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