The Effects Of Stress On College Students

Male college student standing in a corner with blue and yellow sticky notes all over the wall and his face and body. He is trying to manage stress while in college.

Knowing how to manage stress in college is important. From busy schedules, deadlines, and personal responsibilities, college students face more and more stress and pressure. Being under chronic stress and pressure can have serious consequences and lead to a host of issues. Managing stress needs to be a priority for college students.

A 2021 study by American College Health Association found that 48 percent of college students reported moderate or severe psychological stress, 53 percent reported being lonely, and one in four had considered suicide.

With so many students feeling the effects of stress, it’s important to recognize the difference between managing and escaping. Escaping whether it be through drugs or alcohol can provide temporary relief from stress, but it’s not a permanent solution. Learning stress management will help with long-term coping skills that will last far beyond college. Once you graduate your stress doesn’t just disappear, it’s replaced with new stress, having the skills to manage it will be valuable.

Here are 5 techniques that will help you deal with stress.

1. Create A Schedule

The best way to create a stress-free tomorrow is to create a schedule. By now you know Your College Sensei is all about efficiency. It’s vital to manage your time wisely. Nothing is worse and creates more stress than realizing an assignment or project is due the night before you have to turn it in. The best way to keep this from happening is to manage your schedule and use your time wisely.

Here are two simple time management tips:

  • Create A Schedule: Figure out which assignments you need to complete first, and which tasks can wait. Schedule time when you will study, work on assignments, and prepare for exams. Try and stick to your schedule and adapt it if necessary. Not everything can be set in stone, life does happen.
  • Get Organized: Create a calendar. It can be a physical or a digital calendar like Google, iPhone, or Microsoft Outlook. Once you’ve chosen your calendar start filling it in. Note when you have classes, and when assignments, projects, and tests are due. Include midterms, finals, holidays, and breaks. Add other scheduled commitments like work, internships, meetings, and other extra-curricular activities. Be sure to look at your calendar daily, it’s what will keep you on track.

2. Follow A Regular Sleep Schedule To Help With Managing Stress

A great way to manage stress in college is via sleep. Sleep is essential to being alert and it is directly correlated with academic performance. Creating a bedtime routine is important and consistency is key. You can set an alarm or notification on your phone to remind you. The goal is to train your body to sleep at a specific time.

Take a little time to wind down and relax before bed each night. You can do this by, creating a bedtime playlist, reading a book, taking a warm shower or bath, having a cup of tea (be sure it is caffeine free), or even doing a little stretching or yoga. Meditation, guided imagery, and breathing exercises are also good ways to ease into sleep. Two great apps for this are Insight Timer (I personally use it) or Calm.

Here are some great books to read when you are going to bed.

Be sure to turn off all electronics, the light from these devices makes it difficult to fall asleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol several hours before bed. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule to avoid disturbing the circadian rhythm that regulates wakefulness.

3. Manage Stress In College Through Diet and Nutrition

White bowl of vegetable salad with wedges of cheese, lemon, and pumpkin seed on brown table with white napkin. Manage stress while in college through a good diet

Eating a balanced and healthful diet helps your body manage stress. It increases energy, helps with focus and concentration, and increases your immune system. Conversely, an unbalanced diet can lead to fatigue, lack of concentration, moodiness, and even depression.

Often when we are stressed, we overeat unhealthy foods because it distracts us from our stress and makes us feel better. We then feel guilty for overeating. Some students do the opposite and instead of seeking out comfort foods or mindless snacking, they skip meals which is just as bad.

Healthful snacks are one of the 15 items you should always have in your backpack so keep them handy. Nuts, seeds, trail mix, granola bars, and some energy bars contain good nutrition. Toss in some fresh fruit and veggies that travel well, like apples, bananas, oranges, mandarins, baby carrots, celery sticks, and cherry tomatoes. Always have water handy, staying hydrated is vital.

4. Build A Good Support System

Having a support system of family, friends, peers, colleagues, and professors can help you manage stress while you are in college. Being able to talk to someone who cares, go out for a bite to eat, or even take a walk may be all that you need to decompress.

Rely on your support system, no one should go through hard times alone. Through good times and bad, it’s important to be there for each other. College is fun and exciting, but it is also full of challenges, it’s crucial to have people you can rely on.

5. When It Comes To Managing Stress You Must Eliminate Stressors

Remove as many self-induced stresses as possible as they are within our control. Below are a few stressors that we have the power to reduce.


Don’t try and get straight A’s. In other words, don’t try to maintain a 4.0 GPA. It puts way too much additional stress on you and it’s simply not necessary for the majority of college students. The desire to perform well can put an immense amount of pressure on a student. You can read about, Why Getting Straight A’s In College Isn’t Necessary.


Worry is a common self-induced stressor. We worry about our grades, relationships, jobs, money, health, and the future. Worrying is not good for us. It creates tension, fatigue, and anxiety. Many things in life are uncertain and while we want to always have the best outcome, we often worry about things that never happen or are out of our control. It’s okay to let some worries go as we can’t control everything and making mistakes is normal.

Negative Thoughts:

Negative thoughts are damaging because we are greatly influenced by the way we think. If you repeat a lie enough, it is said that it becomes the truth. That’s how negative thoughts operate too. If you think you’re not good enough, you can’t do it, nobody cares, or you’re a loser, it becomes your truth. Negative thoughts are powerful, and you must let them go. The quickest way to deal with a negative thought is to replace it with a positive one. If you’re not feeling good enough simply replace it with, I am good enough. Shifting to a positive thought will cause your brain to switch gears and refocus.


Guilt is a lot like worry because what we feel guilty about, we often can’t change. When we have guilt, it means we made a mistake that went against our moral standards. We constantly think about how we could have done things differently. We self-evaluate and recognize what we did wrong. However, everyone makes mistakes, and it does us no good to hang on to them. Learn from them and let them go.

Working full-time while you are in college is now becoming a necessity. If you work and go to school at the same time be sure to read, How To Balance Working And Going To College Full-Time.