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College takes toll on student stress levels

Classes, work, sororities and fraternities, homework, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, projects, exams, clubs, community service, internships, scholarships, financial aid, student loans, professors—just thinking about these raise my blood pressure and make me sweat profusely.

Ok, maybe not profusely, but I know I’m not the only one who can be a little overwhelmed by everything going on in college. It’s surprising we don’t have panic attacks every five minutes. With all the stress we face every day, how do we keep from having a mental breakdown?

Finding time to de-stress during your busy schedule will keep those anxiety attacks at bay. But how do you de-stress?

Relaxation is the antibiotic for anxiety. Sometimes during a busy day, you just need to sit or lie down and simply gather your thoughts. Stare at the ceiling for a while or daydream. Try to empty your mind off whatever is stressing you out.

If you’re having trouble clearing your mind, try to recite a favorite poem or song in your head. I mentally recite the First Amendment verbatim repeatedly.

Play soothing music such classical or jazz (wherever your preferences lay). Yoga, Pilates and meditation are great ways to harness your chi and get a better grip on everything.

Naps are another effective form of relaxation, especially when writing a paper. Since the brain is most active while you sleep, you might wake up with more perspectives on your problems.

Getting eight hours of sleep every night helps, too. Sometimes I get the feeling sleep is a competition of whom can get the least amount and still be able to open their eyes. Excuse me for wanting a full REM cycle.

Avoid beverages with large amounts of caffeine. Sure, a Monster will keep you awake long enough to type a paper, but unbelievably, caffeine is a drug that can actually boost your stress levels. So if you’re on the verge of mental breakdown, don’t head to the café for a double shot of espresso. Go for the non-caffeinated beverages instead.

Read a book, other than your textbooks. Sometimes I get in this mindset that I can’t read a good novel because that’s study time I’m wasting. However, reading something for fun is way less stressful than reading a boring textbook. I’m not saying to ignore reading assignments, but try to make room for an enjoyable book as well.

Hang out with some friends! Watch a funny movie and just laugh and have fun. Chances are they need to de-stress too. It’s like that old saying: Laughter is the best medicine.

Play with a puppy! Ok, this might seem random, but who doesn’t love an adorable puppy? During finals, many colleges have animal shelters bring cute puppies and kittens to campus for students to pet and play with in order to de-stress. If animals can be used to visit hospital patients, why can’t they help anxious college students?

Go for a walk or run. We all know exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins make us happy. It’s also a chance to shut out everything around you for a while. Put your iPod on high volume, and walk around campus a few times.

Of course, there are many more ways to de-stress, and not all techniques work for everyone. Find your own ways to de-stress, and you can avoid any embarrassing panic attacks during the middle of class.

Photo: Connor McCourtney

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