5 Tips for Managing Stress in College and Staying Healthy

by Ashley Eneriz

Taking care of your health in college may sometimes seem like just another thing to add to your already-packed schedule. But staying healthy should always be your number one priority (along with excelling academically)!

In fact, managing stress in college is one of the most important aspects of the student experience. Effectively dealing with stress can benefit your overall well-being and make achieving your school and work goals easier.

We know you’re busy—especially with the holiday season coming up—so here’s a list of healthy practices and stress-management tricks you can add to your routine. By leveraging these five tips and focusing a bit of your attention on your health, you can prevent issues from affecting your path to graduation.

1. Stay Active

Our bodies were made to move often. Sitting all day in class and then binging on your favorite show at night means your body likely isn’t getting enough activity. This can lead you to feel bad both physically and emotionally, which can cause stress.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Lack of physical activity can add to feelings of anxiety and depression.” The last thing you want is these overwhelming feelings to hit you before finals!

To help prevent the ill effects of inactivity, find creative ways to squeeze in more movement before and after classes as well as during breaks. April Hoy, assistant athletics director for the Azusa Pacific University Department of Athletics, said that doing whole-body movements are the best way to get the blood flowing. She also recommended taking the stairs and walking or riding a skateboard/scooter/bike around campus to help keep your activity levels up.

2. Take an Exercise Class

There is a ton of research that connects regular exercise with stress reduction. According to The Journal of Physiology, exercise has also been found to increase neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that controls learning and memory. Yes, your daily twenty-minute jog might help you retain what you’re learning in class!

Getting into the habit of exercising regularly is another story, though. Hoy suggested that students adopt a regimen that works for them. Although it can be difficult to establish a workout routine, she said that once they’ve started, they’ll find these routines invigorating and rewarding. In fact, Hoy recommended that students enrolled at APU find a fitness class through the Kinesiology Department that meets their interests, as this can help them get started and stay accountable.

APU offers several fun Fitness for Life classes, such as Zumba, flag football, yoga, and other recreational activities. These classes can help you get in the habit of working out—and will also allow you to earn credits toward your degree.

3. Maintain a Healthy Diet

You need to put your best immune system forward when the flu virus starts going around. This means you should pay attention not only to your hygiene but your diet! According to Scientific American, consuming too much sugar can negatively affect immune system cells that attack bacteria, which means your body won’t be ready for a fight against germs after you down a soda or sugary coffee drink.

Eating nutrient-dense foods not only prevents illness, but can also help you feel better all around. Think about it: How productive did you feel after a late-night study session with pizza, cookies, and soda? Maybe a little stressed? Focusing your diet on lean protein, healthy carbs, vegetables, and fruit can help you better balance your hectic schedule.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, especially during stressful parts of the semester like midterms and finals. Mindfulness exercises, such as writing down daily affirmations, practicing gratitude, and intentionally slowing down, can help you feel better inside and out.

“Deep breathing can be a helpful relaxation exercise,” said Hoy. “It increases oxygen to one’s muscles, releases endorphins, and has a relaxing effect on the body.”

When you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a moment to pause and reflect. Ask yourself why you’re feeling this way. Are you adding more responsibilities to your list than you need to, or are you stressing about something you can’t control?

A great approach to managing stress in college is taking a few moments to check your mindset and then reflect on the truth of the situation. This brief exercise can help you remember what you are responsible for in the moment—and see a clearer path forward.

5. Seek Help for Stress and Anxiety

If you find that you’re experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety during your time on campus, it’s a good idea to reach out for some help! Talking through issues can help them seem more manageable, and it’s always nice to know someone is in your corner.

At APU, students can visit the University Counseling Center to talk with a professional and learn tips for reducing stress and managing anxiety. The center also offers free workshops and group counseling sessions that can help students effectively manage their unique situations.

Curious to learn about the groups and workshops offered at Azusa Pacific University? Visit the school’s website to explore the different resources available to students.