College is a time of major change, and often a time of major stress. College students deal with a number of stressors, including academics, choosing a major, separating from parents, and making new friends.

Many students report feeling the most stressed about academics. However, students reporting academic stress often have significant stress in other areas of life as well. When students are experiencing a lot of general stress, they often experience impaired concentration, lower energy levels, and decreased motivation. These changes often lead to impaired academic performance. As academic performance worsens, students become even more stressed, which can lead to further decreases in concentration, energy, and motivation. This is a cycle that can repeat over the course of a semester as students’ grades continue to go down while stress levels continue to rise. Breaking this cycle sometimes requires professional help from a counselor.

How to cope with academic stress:

  • Determine if you are experiencing stress in other areas of life, as this stress may be affecting academic performance.
  • If you are experiencing stress in other areas of life, work on finding methods to reduce this stress, or consider getting help from a counselor.
  • Think about when this stress developed. Try to determine if there were changes you made that led to increased stress.
  • Recognize the role of procrastination in increasing your stress level. Decrease procrastination by:
    • Having a friend keep you accountable
    • Setting small goals and celebrating your accomplishment of these goals
    • Minimizing distractions in the environment, such as Facebook, computer games, and friends coming and going in your apartment or dorm. Consider going to the library to study.
  • Recognize negative thoughts that lead to increased stress, and work on replacing those with positive thoughts.
  • Take time to relax daily. Yoga, deep breathing, medication, and muscle relaxation are all proven ways to reduce feelings of stress. Taking at least 15 minutes a day to relax is a worthwhile investment that will pay off in reduced stress levels.
  • Surround yourself by friends who support and encourage you. Social support has been proven to be a buffer against stress.
  • Consider getting professional help from a psychologist if stress becomes unmanageable.