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October has arrived, and the cool autumnal breeze has blown midterms right up to our doorsteps. We’re getting into that middle ground right before Thanksgiving Break. There are tests to be taken and papers to be written. Your daily planner is full of academia, and the shadows have started to creep under your eyes from lack of sleep. You feel agitated, jumpy and perhaps slightly paranoid. You’ve probably snapped at your roommate at least once. Things like eating have suddenly lost their importance.
My friend, you are suffering from stress.
Worn out from work, a student takes a nap at her computer in her dorm's study room. (CU Independent file/Amy Leder)
Stress is like a cat: it decides to be friendly when you are least able to pay attention to it. Everyone will tell you that there is something about college stress that is more affectionate than other stress.
Learning to manage your stress is vital. So put your studying down and let’s talk relaxation.
College students are expert procrastinators. We load our plates, and then tell ourselves that the paper we have due in a week isn’t a priority. We shove it all the way to the night before it’s due and then freak out. Procrastination was OK in high school, but college is a very different ball game. If you get behind, it can take a long time to catch up. Manage your time accordingly. If you have a week to start a paper, try starting it three days before the due date. Study over a period of days rather than a period of hours. Try it—you’ll see a huge difference almost immediately.
Sleep is one of the most basic solutions for stress. Young adults need something like eight to ten hours of sleep per day to grow properly and maintain their health. I hear you laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, but honestly: when was the last time you slept more than, say, six hours?
Yeah. I thought so.
Sleep, and I mean at night, not through your classes. I try to aim for at least seven hours of solid sleep. Try to keep yourself as well-rested as possible. When you don’t sleep, you get cranky, your weight starts going up and down, and you lose the ability to concentrate and absorb information. Catch some z’s.
During stressful times, most people are so focused on their brains that they forget about their bodies. Our bodies take a serious beating from stress, and nothing adds to stress more than tense shoulders or loss of energy.
Go to the Rec Center. Go on the elliptical, swim a few laps, or lift some weights. You don’t have to work out for enormous amounts of time – half an hour will do. But take the time to treat your body with care. That goes for eating, too. In times of stress, eating either becomes a lower priority or our habits go out the window on our quest for comfort and caffeine. Don’t stop eating just because you’ve got three midterms, but try not to live off of Hungry Buffs’ takeout Chinese or Cosmo’s Pizza. Maintaining good habits, like exercising and healthy eating, will help you keep a sense of order when everything else seems to be falling apart.
The most important advice I can give you is this: take time for yourself. Our lives are so busy and full of activities, people and parties, but you need some me time as well. Do stuff that you like to do. Go for a walk to Pearl Street. Sit in Starbucks with a pumpkin spice latte and a novel. Draw. Listen to your favorite tunes in your PJ’s. Watch a favorite movie. Go for a hike. Taking care of yourself and doing things for yourself is the greatest kindness you can offer during stressful times. Continue to hang out with your friends and do fun stuff with other people, but take some quiet time for yourself. Our minds need time to recuperate from all the noise and bustle that is college life.
Life gets busy, and the next thing you know you’ve got a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and a spoon in your hands, ready to pack your stress away and ignore it. Be kind to yourself. Be conscious of what your body needs, and don’t be afraid to set stuff down and walk away from it for a while. Oh, and don’t forget to breathe.
Still having trouble managing stress?
CU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Department is located in the C4C and offers a number of free counseling sessions to students who need extra help coping with stress, or other situations life brings.
Contact Independent Staff Writer Hannah Morrison at Hamo7004@colorado.edu.
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