College life can be pretty hectic, especially when you’re juggling class work, college applications and extracurricular activities. With so many different responsibilities, it can be downright stressful at times. It’s important to do your best and work hard, but if it’s always go-go-go you put yourself at risk for serious burnout.
So how can you keep college life stress from dragging you down? There are plenty of simple, easy solutions to try. Check out these stress-busting tips from real teens who know exactly what you’re going through.
Take a break
Sixteen-year-old Zach Veach is no stranger to stress. When he’s not busy going to class and studying, he competes as a racecar driver for Andretti Autosport in Stockdale, Ohio. One of his favorite ways to cope with stress in his life is to give himself a break when he needs one. “Especially if you’re stressed about school work, I’ve found out that if you take a break from a paper you can’t figure out and come back after a short relaxing break, it’s a lot easier to focus and get it done,” Veach says.
Relax with friends
Another great way to deal with stress is to spend time with friends.“Talking to a best friend can relieve stress, too,” Veach says. “My teammate from this past year and I Skype almost every night. We talk about everything and anything, from our favorite race tracks to girls.” Whether you are having a heart-to-heart or are laughing about a funny story, talking to a friend is the perfect way to clear your head and gain a little perspective on things.
And don’t forget to hang out with your furry friends as well! Pets have a special talent for cheering people up. “Animals are so compassionate and they love you for who you are and they don’t judge, so when I am having a bad day or whatever, just petting my little dogs helps,” says Rachel Pavelka, 15, of Holdrege, Neb.
Exercise is another proven stress buster and with so many options available, you’re sure to find an exercise you actually enjoy doing.“In the past, I have gone for long runs, played tennis or hiked,” says Monika Lutz, 18, of New York City.
“Kickboxing has also been a great outlet to release tension.”The next time you’re feeling stressed, get your blood pumping. Go shoot hoops, take a walk or ride your bike. Before you know it, you’ll be refreshed, recharged and ready to go.
Ask the expert
What is “stress” anyway? We turned to Susan Orenstein, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and author of College Companion: Survival Guide to College Life for a scientific explanation and expert advice.
What is stress? How can it affect your body?
Stress is a physical response and an emotional response to a perceived threat in the environment. Our body prepares to meet the challenge of that threat by getting ready for “fight or flight.”
Our initial emotional response is one of arousal, but then we have a secondary response to that arousal based on how capable we feel of meeting a challenge in a successful manner. If we feel competent, we can see the challenge as exciting and as an opportunity for self-growth. If we feel incompetent, overwhelmed or hopeless, we’ll experience a sense of anxiety and dread.
What can teens do to better cope with stress?
1. Identify the stressor. Once you label it, you’re already taming it. Ask yourself what’s bothering you? What’s causing you discomfort?
2. Make sure not to make the situation worse. Ask yourself if you’re handling stress in any harmful ways (for example, abusing alcohol or drugs, overeating, taking out your frustration on other people). If so, realize that you can get support and help breaking these destructive patterns.
3. Talk to a guidance counselor, parent, coach or other adult that you can trust. Let them know you’d like some help coping with your stress.
Sarah Nagel is lucky to live in beautiful Boulder, Colo. She works as an editor by day and a freelance writer by night.