By Autumn Raven
College Student, Citizen Scientist, cosplayer, Meritize Intern
In my last blog, I provided some tips on how to reduce the stress and anxiety of college, including the importance of joining a club, eating right and exercising. These aren’t state secrets, and a lot of what it takes to keep stress at a minimum is common sense. Still, it’s amazing to me how many smart college students forget the basics and then wonder why they want to pull their hair out. Stress and anxiety will come as surely as that next exam, so the trick is to try and stay one step ahead and avoid letting the unique life of college overwhelm you. Here are a few more strategies to help you maintain a good, healthy attitude and a full head of hair.
Don’t Study Where You Sleep
If you’re a student who loves studying (I don’t know if this rare unicorn of a person exists), then this doesn’t apply much to you. But if you’re a normal college student like me and hiss at textbooks when they get too close, then take this warning to heart. Increase the places where you study, and try to avoid always studying in your room. The more you study in one place, especially where you need to sleep and relax, the more your mind will relate the two. So, when you are in your room and not studying, your anxiety level may go up because you have trained your brain to expect to study in that space. Studying constantly in your room could leave you anxious even when you’re eating, sleeping or just chilling with the latest show you’re into. It prevents you from benefiting from the healthy balance that comes with leaving your room and walking or driving to other locations where you’ll have actual human interaction, even if just to place a food order or see others in a common area. Of course, some people like to study in the privacy of their rooms, and even some like to study in bed. If this describes you, then make sure you take frequent breaks to walk the block or hunt and gather the healthy food that’s so important to your stress management.
Aim For a Variety of Classes
Just as you want to balance the number of classes you take in a semester, it is just as important to avoid overloading with similar classes or courses within the same subject area. When you have multiple classes that are similar in subject matter or content, information from one class will likely bleed into the others. While that may seem like it would offer efficiencies, it can backfire, creating information overload and confusion. When it comes test time, your mind might focus on the wrong class or you might confuse due dates for assignments. A variety of classes will keep you from subject burnout and allow your mind to stay focused within the class “swim lanes.” You’ll be better equipped to switch gears when you need to, using different parts of your brain and reasoning skills. It’s said that “Variety is the spice of life,” but in college, perhaps the saying should be “Variety is sanity of life.”
Find a Hobby or Activity That’s For You and You Only
Even though spending time out of your room in a group setting is important – either at a social or sporting event, organized club gathering or just hanging with friends – don’t forget the power of spending time alone. Having a hobby or activity that you pursue without having to coordinate with others can be very rewarding. Spending time alone with just yourself and your thoughts, away from classes and other group settings (and yes, I’m speaking to all you extroverts), is a great way to calm the mind and reduce stress. Time to yourself gives you space to figure out how you feel and to clear the cobwebs. Having a hobby can provide a relaxing change of pace in a way that TV and movies don’t always do. And depending on your hobby, you might end up with something beautiful to decorate your room with or give as a gift on that limited college budget.
College students have quite a lot to deal with, especially during their first year: learning how college works, dealing with the new demands of college-level classes and shifting study habits, learning to cook, clean and take care of money all on their own. Even without the academics,life can be stressful. But with an awareness of the dangers of stress and a commitment to take care of yourself and follow some basic anti-anxiety rules, you can have the upper hand and survive college with all of your hair intact.