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Staying Sane in College

Bio: Ali Hale is a graduate student in London, and runs Alpha Student, packed with tips, advice and ideas to help you get the most out of your time at university. You can grab the RSS feed here.

When you’re juggling the demands of study with the need to scrape together enough dollars to eat something other than ramen noodles, life can get stressful. Here’s some ways to stop the pressure from building up ‘till you explode (probably at the friend who least deserves it).

Go for a twenty minute walk

When you just can’t focus on the chapter you’re supposed to be reading, or the problems you have to solve before your class, stop. Take yourself off for a brisk walk – even if it’s just around the block a couple of times. (Ideally, though, head for some green space – getting close to nature, not concrete, will really lift your mood.)

Go to the gym

If a walk isn’t working, try a gym session. Pounding out some of your energy on the treadmill will help reduce that “tight as a spring” feeling in your head – and you’ll feel much calmer and more focused after your workout. Don’t see exercise as an optional extra to ditch when you’re busy – see it as a way to keep yourself performing at full steam when you most need to.

Daydream for five minutes

Sometimes, the essay or term paper you’re writing can make even your eight am class seem appealing. If you reach the point where you think you’ll scream if you have to type another word, sit back from the keyboard. Close your eyes, and let yourself daydream for a few minutes. Forget about studying and work, and think about your plans for Thanksgiving, the party you’re going to on Friday night, or that hot guy living next door …


Cut the crap

Ditch anything you don’t need to or want to do. That shopping trip that you’re going on because your friend nagged you into it? Pretend you’ve got a work crisis (then stay in and do whatever you want to). The club newsletter that you somehow ended up “volunteering” to write? Pass it on to someone else. Practice making “No” your automatic response whenever someone asks you to commit your time to something new.

Ask for help

There are loads of people around at college to help you out when you’re struggling – make them feel wanted! If you need a confidential chat, try your college’s chaplaincy. If you’re feeling really anxious or down, make an appointment with the counselling service. Talk to someone about financial or personal problems before they become an issue that affects your studying. And don’t be afraid to ask for emotional support for friends – even if you’re the one who everyone turns to in a crisis. They’ll be flattered to replay the favor.

Give yourself downtime

Never feel guilty for not studying/working as much as you think you should. You need and deserve some downtime, where you kick back, relax and do whatever the heck you want to. You only get to experience college once, so make the most of it! Skip the library to go shopping once in a while, or ignore your rigid studying plan and take an afternoon off to catch a matinee.

If you think “that all sounds great but I just don’t have time” – remember that you don’t have time to get sick, either. Over-working, stress and not taking care of yourself means you’re likely to make yourself ill.

Look after yourself, stay sane, and take time out when you need it.

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2 Responses to “Staying Sane in College”

  1. kati42 says:

    The “Ask For Help” item is very important, and I think a key idea left out is “go to office hours.” I am a professor, and I routinely talk to students at the end of the semester who didn’t get the grade they wanted because they didn’t ask for help–in many cases, these students didn’t even know when office hours WERE (even though they are posted on the main page of the course website). I stress to students that they should come to office hours for help, and even offer to meet with students outside of office hours if they have a schedule conflict. Many students do not realize that admitting to the TA or professor that they don’t understand something from class will help them, not hurt them.

  2. Great post, thanks for sharing. I’d agree the most with walking, always works for me when my head seems empty.