Managing Stress 101: College Edition

Lately, I have been a tightly-wound, perpetually-crabby ball of stress, and I haven’t even tried to hide it. I’m sure many folks have noticed that I’m a little uptight and high-strung these days. It’s a combination of factors, including various aspects of college life and my (hopefully) blossoming career. The simple fact is, I’ve been a teensy-weensy itsy-bitsy bit stressed out lately. I can thank a lot of very patient people for being there for me during this ongoing state of “blah” that I’ve been in, including my mother.

There have been a lot of overly-dramatic, tearful and/or grumpy phone calls lately. And it all comes back to stress management.

There are only a few things on the radar for me right now that are big enough to register singularly. However, the little things add up. Allowing these things to build without taking some time to decompress can take its toll. So, tonight and over the next few days I’m going to be making additional efforts to release some tension and break down some of the stress I’ve been dealing with. Here’s my plan (and my advice to anyone else):

  • Eat right. I’m notorious for stress eating, so it take a lot of effort to eat healthy when I’m under a lot of pressure. It’s okay to nibble on some comfort food now and then (in my case, salty fatty foods) but giving in completely to random stress cravings is not productive for your health or your tension levels.
  • Sleep. This is another area I’m especially bad at. I’m a night owl by nature, and usually end up catching a second wind in the evenings whether I like it or not. However, now that I’ve survived midterms and a lot of my big to-do’s for the next few weeks are caught up, sleep is going to be moving upward on the priority list. Sleep deprivation can do a lot of negative harm. It hurts focus, lowers productivity, and can harm the quality of work. It also wears down your body, and, specifically, your immune system.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Even detail-oriented people need a break from the details now and then. Today, rather than springing out of bed and turning myself into a well-polished, presentable princess of a college student (HA! I’m a comedian…) I tossed on a comfy t-shirt, some worn in jeans, and a stocking cap to wrangle the hair that I did not feel like doing today. I had been up late last night studying, and the office I work at on campus doesn’t have a dress code for student workers. (I’d like to point out, though, that I’ve dressed business casual for every day of work I’ve had in that office up until today. I do it out of respect for my employers and to make a good impression on any guests we have in the office. This morning, I just couldn’t do it.)
  • Take time for you. Tonight, I’m working on some fun, exciting volunteer projects. When I wrap up this blog post and my current geek-fest on social media stuff, I’m going to give myself a manicure. Why? Because I feel like it, that’s why. Got a problem with that? No? Good. And after my nails dry, I think I’m going to have some hot cocoa. And maybe watch a movie with my roommates.
  • Get away, if you need to. I have too much going on these days to go home for the whole weekend, but I do plan to make a day-trip down to that area just because I can. I need to see corn fields and open spaces, and take a break from the suburban rush of my college life. I have a good excuse, too, since I need to get some stuff from my parents’ house. I’m hoping one or two (or more) of my city slicker friends decide to come along for a ride. If they do, I might even find a combine for them to ride in.
  • Get organized. Even though it seems like a shame to do some organizational work when you’d rather be decompressing, this is actually the best time to do it. It’ll help you keep your head on straight when you have to get back to reality and jump back into a busy schedule.
  • Respect your limits. I like to push myself beyond my own capacity pretty easily with time and availability. At some point in time, you just can’t do anymore stuff. I’m a people-pleaser, so this is especially hard for me. However, learning how to say “no” means you can devote more time and energy to the things you do…and we all know the old saying about quality and quantity.
  • Nurture your self-esteem. I’m tired and run down, which means I tend to second-guess myself and doubt my decisions. I’ve heard many times about how I don’t trust my own instincts enough, from many people. Do something that you feel good about, and use that to rebuild your self-esteem following an incredibly busy, stressful, and trying time.

If you can help it, avoid getting to this point. If you can swing it, make motions to consistently manage your stress, rather than letting it run away with you. I’m fried for a number of reasons, many of which are beyond my control. For now, I manage the things I can and roll with the things I can’t. Either way, it’s my turn to blow off some steam.

I’ve had a good time tonight doing things that I want to do. I’m doing things that are fulfilling and fun; it feels great! Tomorrow is one of my long days, where I’m on the go for about ten hours straight without much of a break at all. I’ll be stepping back into that frightful reality, and things like graduation requirements and homework will creep back into my mind. However, until tomorrow, I’m going to be chilling out and taking it easy.

And lookin' classy. This is my "I-don't-care-how-I-look" outfit for today. White Carhartt stocking cap (or toque, as they're called in Canada, according to my friend Rosie) with an Udder Tech Inc. t-shirt and black undershirt. Not pictured: worn, comfy jeans and brown square-toed boots.

I deserve it, and I need it.

What are your stress-management go-to’s? What do you do to avoid letting stress get to a point where you do need to decompress? Share your stress control and de-stressing ideas! This college kid can use all the help she can get, and I’m sure there are others in the same boat!


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