5 Stress Busters Every Student Needs Now

For high school and college students, stress is often inescapable. Between mounds of homework, that crappy retail job, work study, and trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life … um, headache anyone? However, how we choose to deal with stress is totally within our control. If you’re looking for some tips on how to lower your stress levels, read ahead:

1. Wage war with your mirror. Want to stress less about your body? Strip your mirror’s power over you. Understand that how we see ourselves in a mirror determines how we see ourselves in every aspect of our lives. If we spend twenty minutes in front of a mirror criticizing every inch of our bodies, how can we possibly act confidently once we leave our bedrooms? Self-assured women and men know that self-love is the key to success. Tip: Stand in front of your mirror and say, “I am beautiful – flaws and all” for as long as it takes you to believe it.

2. Don’t overload your schedule. Whether that means cutting back on extracurricular activities, giving up your part-time job, or simply learning better time management skills, every student should find the right work/life balance that best suits your needs. Listen to your body. It’ll tell you loud and clear if it’s being taxed. College students: Be especially careful not to take on too many classes in one semester. I double majored in English and History and picked up a minor in Writing. By my last semester of my senior year, I needed 18 credit hours to graduate on time. So I overloaded my schedule on top of working part-time. The stress was WAY too much and I cracked.

3. Stay out of the credit card trap. I know, I know. They keep sending you these great credit card offers in the mail with the promise of a free t-shirt and that book you need to buy for Chem. 1 is $120 and you just spent your last cent on dinner with friends the night before and your parents will shoot you if you call home to beg for more cash. Credit cards are tempting and there’s nothing wrong with owning a couple as long as you exercise caution. Tip: Don’t charge more than you know you can pay off when the bill is due. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying around 20% interest. Plus, if you simply pay the minimum payment (or worse, rack up late fees), that $60 jacket you charged six months ago will end up costing you way more than you ever imagined. Did you know that the average credit card debt owed by college students is about $2,700, with close to a quarter of students owing more than $3,000? About 10 percent owed more than $7,000! That’s not even including your student loans. Bottom Line: Pay cash whenever you can and keep your plastic on ice!

4. Catch up on some ZZZs. Did you know that sleep problems are generally the most common physical complaint of college students – and of the rest of the general U.S. population? Of course you know this, as you’re lying awake at night watching the clock! Maybe you didn’t know that a lack of sleep could actually cause student anxiety and depression. Staying out all night on the weekends and then trying to get up early for class on Monday screws up your body’s biological clock and set’s you up for insomnia. Advice: Try to go to bed around the same time each night. If you have to stay up super late each night to squeeze in homework and study time, that should be a clue for you that you’re taking on too much. Look at your extracurriculars, class load and other activities and see if there’s something you could cut back on to free up some relaxation time. Sleep is a non-negotiable essential.

5. Get moving. Richard Kadison, M.D., author of College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What To Do About It, says that there’s good evidence for milder forms of depression, four days of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise works as well as antidepressant medication. Exercise doesn’t have to mean running on a treadmill for 30 minutes or sweating on a stair master. Students: Don’t have time to go to the gym? Go outside and take a 20-minute walk, squeeze in a 30-minute exercise video in between classes or grab a friend and take a bike ride. Only have 10 minutes to spare? Pop in your favorite CD and dance around your dorm room. The laugh you’ll get from this exercise may be all you need to keep stress at bay.