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Letting Out Steam: Managing Stress in College

Stress is a perfectly normal part of college life. In fact, according to SUNY Genesco Health & Counseling, mild amounts of stress can actually be beneficial, helping to motivate you to get more work done and improve your performance in school. However, stress can become all-consuming if you let it spiral out of control. No matter what your stress level, it is helpful to explore some practical ways to manage stress as a college student.

The first thing you will need to do when you realize your stress level is mounting is to identify why. If you're not sure of the source of your stress, take a look at this useful list of stress indicators and identify which might be stacking up to raise your stress level. Next, realize that you will have to make a change—small or large—to manage that stress. After all, as the old saying goes, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

If your stress and anxiety are directly school-related, the change you need could be as simple as getting more sleep each night or meeting with your professors or studying a little each day rather than cramming. But if the stress is relational (e.g., loss of a family member, break-up with a long-time significant other) you may need to take other steps to manage the weight of your stress, such as journaling or blogging as an outlet for loss; confiding in a trusted friend, family member or pastor; or taking a long drive or a daytrip into nature to get your mind off things. It is important to allow yourself time to cry or otherwise grieve instead of bottling it up, and to share how you are feeling with another person instead of staying in isolation.

Exercise is also a great release of stress. Whether you choose a physical activity designed for stress release (like yoga) or choose a solid workout at the gym, a hard run, a brisk walk or a team sport, getting your blood moving can significantly lower your stress, not to mention improve your overall health.

Finally, if stress and/or anxiety is dominating your life and keeping you from functioning at your best, don't be afraid to seek professional help. Many colleges offer free or low-cost counseling services especially for students who are buckling under the weight of stress and do not feel that they have anyone to turn to.

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