The high-school and college years can be incredibly stressful. Students are going through a number of developmental changes, learning about who they are and who they want to be, navigating relationships, and dealing with more “grown-up” problems — all while facing academic pressures and challenges. While they’re trying to figure out what they want to do with their life, they also have to balance a full course load, extracurricular activities, and entrance exams.
For many, the pressure can become too much. Many turn to over-the-counter drugs like Vivarin or No Doz — caffeine pills and “energy supplements” that fuel all-night study sessions but also foster a dependency on chemical stimulants. Others turn to even more damaging coping methods, such as abusing alcohol or illegal drugs to either deal with the stress or to enhance performance.
There are a number of healthy coping mechanisms that students can use instead to deal with stress or study more efficiently in order to avoid alcohol or drug dependence. Here are a few ideas:
Students often try to do too much. Many who already have a full course load will then try to join a few clubs, start volunteering (for the resume boost), work a part-time job for extra cash, maybe even hold down an internship and maintain an active social life. Having too much on your plate can make it hard to focus on your studies and can cause you to feel overwhelmed and to fall behind. Effective time management is one way to get a handle on these responsibilities. Make a schedule of all your obligations, and then prioritize your responsibilities. Eliminate what can be eliminated, and then prioritize the remaining tasks and schedule them appropriately. Then stick to the schedule. It may not be easy, but if you have set a realistic schedule, it will be possible to accomplish what you need to without resorting to help from stimulants and all-night study sessions.
Exercising is a great way to relieve stress, and it’s a natural performance enhancer. Regular exercise can give you more energy and can make it easier for you to focus, process new information, and remember what you have studied. It can also help you blow off steam when you are feeling overwhelmed or upset. You don’t have to work out in the gym every day for an hour. Just taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood for a half an hour a day can be enough to give you the boost you need. Instead of reaching for those “energy supplements,” call up a friend and walk a few laps around the block. You’ll feel energized and clear-headed and ready to tackle your work.
Get Plenty of Sleep
This may seem counterintuitive to meeting your goals of getting more done in your already cramped schedule. However, getting enough sleep will help you to manage stress better, will give you the energy you need to take on your demanding schedule, and will help you to focus better in class and during your study sessions. On the other hand, if you are sleep-deprived from too many late-night study sessions, it will be harder for you to concentrate, to process new concepts, or to retain information that you learn in class or study sessions. You should be getting no less than 7 hours of sleep per night. However, it is ideal for you to get at least 8 to 9 hours a night.
Everybody needs a little help sometimes. A good support network can be there for you when you need help or when you just need someone to lend an ear when you are feeling upset or overwhelmed. Build a good network of friends and family who can offer you that support when you are feeling stressed. Instead of drowning your sorrows in alcohol or booze, you can call a friend instead.
Don’t overlook the support network you can find in a study group. Your fellow classmates can support you in your academic studies, providing help when you need it or just a listening ear.
All work all the time can make anyone hit a breaking point. Well-timed breaks can help to relieve stress so that you can recharge and refocus. Head outside for a walk, meet a friend for coffee, or take in a good movie. You don’t have to plan elaborate weekend getaways to get the benefits. Just taking short time outs can help your peace of mind immensely.
Good self-care, including stress management, is important in preventing the abuse of alcohol or drugs (even over-the-counter drugs like Vivarin or No Doz). Students, especially, must learn good stress management techniques in order to cope with the unique pressures that they face. These tips will get you started, but you should also work to find stress relief techniques that work well for you as an individual.
How do you cope with stress? Share your tips in the comments!
Chloe Trogden is a writer and manager for CollegeGrant.net, where she has recently been researching student resources. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, swimming and playing her guitar.