How to Effectively Manage Your Stress

Graffiti art of man yelling and grabbing his head with his hands. Photo by Aaron Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash.

When all of us planned and applied to go to college, we didn’t take the decision lightly. Almost every mentor, adviser and parent drove it into our brains that college would be a life-changing experience, complete with a bundle of stressors. We may be used to tight deadlines and stretching ourselves too thin among commitments, but throwing us in a brand new environment, out of the usual routine, can be a recipe for disaster.

Just because we come into college expecting stress doesn’t mean that we have to let it barrel us over. Whether it be stress from social, academic, or personal experiences and expectations, MTSU offers plenty of resources to make sure that it doesn’t get the best of you. With a little bit of preparation and drive, you can make it through the semester without being consumed by stress, allowing you to always put your best foot forward!

Get organized and learn to manage your time

In a survey conducted by the American College Health Association of more than 1,000 MTSU students, 81% felt overwhelmed by all they had to do at some point during the last 12 months. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed in college, but there are ways to keep it from happening frequently.

A great proactive step is to get organized and examine how you’re spending your time. You may not be having a problem keeping up with everything yet, but you’ll thank yourself later if you start preparing now. Getting in the habit of completing assignments as early as possible frees up time for you to do whatever you want—stress free. This way, when you forget about an assignment or are presented with a daunting assignment, you won’t feel like everything is crashing in on you.

Lisa T. Schrader, director of health promotion, MTSU Health Services

Lisa Schrader

Don’t forget to make time for hobbies and relaxation, though. Once everything is off of your plate, you deserve a chance to do things you enjoy amidst the drudgeries of the semester. As an added benefit, the same survey by the American College Health Association, or ACHA, indicated your grades may thank you for managing stress!  According to Lisa Schrader, director of MTSU Health Promotion, students who took time to manage stress in healthy ways — think exercise, listening to music, meditating, etc. — had statistically higher GPAs than their peers.

Even better, do stress management activities with your friends! “Spending real face-to-face time with your social connections, not just time on social media, is connected to more positive feelings and an overall better outlook on life,” Schrader says.

Stay positive, stay enthusiastic

Enthusiasm is the key to getting through school. If there’s something you simply do not want to do, the best way to tackle it is to find value in completing it. For example, if you have a test coming up, you aren’t going to simply put everything else aside and study until you’re ready. It’s more likely that you procrastinate (hey, let’s be honest here) and never get to the point of wanting to study.

However, if you start looking at the positives that come from it, you may even find yourself excited to do so. If you study well enough, you’ll not only know the content better, but you’ll also have less stress. This will allow you to do your best and not get tripped up by your own brain. If you do well, your overall grade will be better, you’ll impress your professor, and place yourself in the perfect position to have a great semester! Doesn’t that get you in the mood to study? It’s all about bettering yourself!

On a similar note, if something doesn’t go your way, try your best to keep a positive attitude. I know it can be difficult, but things will work out in the end. I know it’s corny, but if you keep a “glass half-full” attitude, especially in the rollercoaster that college resembles, you’ll save yourself  a metric ton of stress.

An MTSU student’s mortarboard speaks for her as she waits for the summer 2017 commencement ceremony to begin in Murphy Center in this file photo. MTSU’s summer 2018 graduation is set Saturday, Aug. 11, when 843 graduate and undergraduate students will receive their degrees. (MTSU file photo by GradImages)

An MTSU student’s mortarboard speaks for her as she waits for the summer 2017 commencement ceremony to begin in Murphy Center in this file photo. (MTSU file photo by GradImages)

The importance of self-assessment

I know what you’re thinking … you’re already stressed out enough to be reading this article in hopes of gleaning some wisdom; I don’t need to tell you that it’s your fault you’re stressed! Not my intention at all. Rather, in any process of self-growth, it helps to be able to look at a situation from different points of view and use our best judgement to learn from successful, driven members of the community.

Members of MTSU’s graduate student-led Health Education Research Organization, or HERO, have provided stress management resources, including self-assessment surveys, to employees at the General Mills plant in Murfreesboro. Graduate students and faculty members agree that self-assessment is the best start to managing stress. HERO, the Community and Public Health Program and the Department of Social Work have been partners for this project. All these programs are part of the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, which trains students to become service professionals in a variety of settings.

Keep an eye on your health

Eat, sleep, hydrate, exercise, repeat: that’s a winning formula proven to reduce stress and keep you in a positive mindset to take on the day.

College students often forsake meals and struggle to find tiny slots of time for a snack. This, of course, doesn’t give our bodies the nutrients they need to get us through our daily struggles at work and in the classroom. Try meal prep and have food ready for yourself so you don’t feel the urge to grab something fast and unhealthy. Make sure to pack healthy snacks to keep your brained fueled throughout the day, and drink TONS of water. Think you’ve had enough? You haven’t. It’s liquid brain power, so keep it flowing.

If you’re looking for some quick and healthy dorm room snacks, check out this article by Angele Latham!

Lindsay Joyce, fitness coordinator in the new Functional Fitness Room inside the MTSU Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center, demonstrates how to use the TRX equipment for suspension training. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Lindsay Joyce, a fitness coordinator in the new Functional Fitness Room inside the MTSU Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center, demonstrates how to use the TRX equipment for suspension training. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

You’ll also want to make sure you’re (gasp) sleeping enough. In the same survey by the ACHA, 22.4% of students said that their academics were negatively affected because of sleep troubles. It may be tough, but you should be getting a full eight hours of sleep every night to keep your brain sharp. You might think that it’d be more beneficial to sacrifice sleep for a little bit more study time, but you’d be mistaken. The effectiveness of your studying decreases exponentially once you start getting tired, so usually it’ll be in your best interests to put the books down and catch some Zs.

There’s a good chance you’re reading this with the hope that I don’t mention exercise as an important factor in reducing stress. I get it. I’m already your worst enemy for making you sleep and make food, so how could I possibly tell you to spend time exercising? In response, I can only say that exercise is probably one of the best stress relievers around. You don’t need to do it for long; even 30 minutes can help clear your mind and have your body feeling good! No matter if it’s yoga, running on the treadmill or simply taking a long walk around campus, your body will thank you. Be sure to take advantage of your free membership to our excellent Campus Recreation Center!

If all of this behavior change seems daunting and maybe even stress-inducing, Health Services can help you with free one-on-one health coaching!  Vinny Black serves as health coach within the Health Promotion office and regularly helps students find simple ways to manage stress and feel better overall. You can request your own free appointment by clicking here.

You have people to talk to

The most important key to managing your stress is realizing you have people to talk to about it. Don’t feel scared to talk to your friends about how school is stressing you out. They’re probably going through the same things you are and would probably even love to be invited to exercise with you!

If you want to speak with a professional about your stress, MTSU’s Counseling Services has specialists that would love to talk with you. They want to help you achieve more by helping you manage your stress. It’s never a good idea to bottle up your stresses; it’s always going to be better getting it off your chest so you can focus on other things.

If this is a topic that interests you, take a look again at HERO, which also provides a forum for discussion and professional development opportunities in health education and research. Contact Dr. Andrew Owusu, HERO’s faculty adviser, for more information.

Even though stressors seemingly are coming at you from all angles, it’s definitely possible to manage yourself and your stress. Just remember to stay organized, stay positive, and stay hydrated!


Author Kobe Hermann is a senior at MTSU, majoring in management in the Jones College of Business and minoring in business administration. The views and opinions expressed above are his own and don’t necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of Middle Tennessee State University.