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Stress is a natural response to change that affects everyone. It is common for students to experience stress during the transitional period of high school to college and throughout the college years. As a student at a top 20 university, it is expected that stress and stressors will arise.

It is normal to experience discomfort when adjusting to change, even when those changes appear to be positive. Stress itself is not always bad and can act as a motivator to address a problem. Per the National Institute of Mental Health, stress can be described as the emotional and physical response that is experienced as a result of change.

Stressors for students may be triggered by cultural and interpersonal experiences with family and friends, professional and academic demands, and financial concerns. Stress may result in a combination of physical and emotional reactions including:

  • Disturbances in sleep.
  • Changes in eating and digestion.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Headaches and muscle tension.
  • Irritability and frustration.
  • Low energy and difficulty focusing.

When you are able to recognize what stress looks like for you, you can take the steps to address it.

Be Present 

Stress can be increased by worry about what’s to come and difficulty focusing on the here and now. To better manage stress, it can be helpful to remind yourself to stop and take a breath. Stress will come, but you have the tools to overcome it by living in the moment. Mindfulness relaxation practices such as square breathing, checking in with your five senses and progressive muscle relaxation are examples of exercises that can help you decrease tension and reconnect to your body in the now. With renewed focus, you can look at your goals and more effectively prioritize what you can do to address the cause of your stress. It may even be helpful to schedule these exercises into your daily routine when you know you have something stressful coming up.

Get Moving

Changing your environment, connecting with others and taking time to do things that allow you to get physical while having fun are good ways to decrease stress. This can be as simple as taking a walk outside, spending time with a friend or even just dancing to some music. Physical health, including diet, exercise and sleep routine, play an important role in helping your body manage daily stressors that come with college life. Incorporating healthy habits consistently can help you better cope with every day stress.