8 Ways to Cope with College Anxiety and Stress (2024)

8 Ways to Cope with College Anxiety and Stress (1)Share on Pinterest

A lot of what makes you excited to go to college can also make you anxious AF.

The thing is, you’re not alone. Having anxiety as a college student is actually very common. According to a 2018 assessment by the American College Health Association, 63 percent of college students in the United States reported overwhelming anxiety and 23 percent reported receiving a diagnosis or being treated by a mental health professional for anxiety.

We rounded up eight tips for coping with college-related anxiety, and we tapped NYC neuropsychologist and Columbia University faculty member Dr. Sanam Hafeez for advice.

Reading that you’re not alone is one thing, but finding a friend who’s also experiencing the same emotions can help you feel supported.

That might seem easier said than done, and even intimidating, when you’re a freshman or starting at a new college. But if you’re feeling it, you can bet others are too — even if they don’t advertise it.

“When you feel anxious about your place in a new college or university, remember that you’re not alone. Everyone else is starting anew as well. Although some may put up a front of bravado, most are equally insecure.” Hafeez says.

You could try joining some clubs, volunteering on campus or at school events, or pledging a sorority or fraternity if that’s more your jam.

Just be sure to seek out friends who share your interests and core values to avoid potentially adding to your anxiety.

“Be patient, and take the time to get to know people. Avoid toxic people or users out of desperation to belong,” Hafeez says. “These kinds of people are more harmful than being alone temporarily.”

Finding your crew takes time, so don’t get discouraged if it’s taking longer than you hoped it would.

While you’re working on building a new social circle, remember you can always lean on your family or existing friends.

There’s just something about a parent’s reassurance that can make all the difference, even if you couldn’t wait to get out of the house and live on your own.

Staying in touch with a parent or parental figure might just be the key to helping you cope with the stress of being a college student, according to a 2016 study.

The researchers found that, as students’ daily stress increased, so did their daily loneliness and depression, while their daily happiness decreased. Communication with a parent was found to be an important factor in a student’s well-being during their transition to college.

And if you’re feeling homesick — which is typical BTW —calling home can help, Hafeez says.

“If you need some extra FaceTime calls with family to buoy you in the beginning, there’s no shame in that.”

Being able to retreat to a dorm room or apartment that’s comfortable and familiar can help you unwind after a stressful day. How you set up your surroundings can help you sleep better and even help with homesickness, Hafeez notes.

Here are a few ways you can create a relaxing space that feels like home:

  • Display pictures and other items that remind you of home or happy times.
  • Set up a designated workspace separate from your chill zone.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable, so you can get a good night’s sleep.
  • Avoid clutter, since research suggests it increases feelings of anxiety and stress.
  • Stock your mini fridge with a combo of your favorite treats and nourishing snacks.

Self-care isn’t all about avo masks and pedicures. Self-care looks different for everyone.

It can involve anything that helps you feel your best — physically and emotionally — so that you’re able to better cope with life’s stressors.

Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, and, contrary to popular belief, practicing self-care isn’t limited to women. Anyone can do it and benefit from it.

Not sure where to start? Consider making a self-care checklist that’s realistic for you based on your schedule, finances, and habits.

Here are some ideas:

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can help you manage stress and anxiety, improve sleep and mood, and boost confidence and productivity. For quick relief, stepping away — literally! — from a stressful situation for a short walk can stop anxious thoughts.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Not getting enough sleep can contribute to anxiety and depression and affect your concentration, making it harder to stay on top of schoolwork. Create a comforting environment by investing in blackout curtains and a white noise machine if you can. Earplugs can also be helpful in a noisy dorm or apartment with paper-thin walls.
  • Watch a funny movie. Laughter really is the best medicine. Studies have shown that laughter induces physical and mental changes that reduce stress and improve health. Watch a funny movie as a quick way to get your mind off stress. Make a point of laughing often, and try finding the humor in situations to cope with anxiety.

Unless the source of your anxiety is having too much on your plate, keeping busy can help with feeling homesick and help you meet new people.

“When we feel sad or depressed, our first tendency might be to isolate. That is the worst thing to do,” Hafeez says. “Throw yourself into campus activities, schoolwork, and evening events. The less time you have on your hands, the less homesick you’ll feel and the more connections you’ll make to help you feel at home.”

College is an entirely different game than high school, and it can be hard to determine just how difficult a class or program will be.

There’s nothing wrong with aiming high and being ambitious. But if your course load is causing you to feel overwhelmed and anxious, it may be time to reevaluate.

“If you made it to college, this isn’t your first rodeo of tests, papers, and pressure. Evaluate the classes you registered for,” Hafeez says.

“You know your capabilities better than anyone. If you really bit off more than is realistic, it might be time to rethink your schedule and see if you need to re-engineer it and perhaps not take quite so many credits in a semester. Talk with a professor on campus, and get some guidance from them.”

When choosing courses, be sure to factor in other time commitments, like work and extracurricular activities. And don’t forget to factor in adequate time for rest.

Identifying what triggers your anxiety can make it easier for you to manage it. Once you know what’s setting off your anxiety, you can begin to find ways to tackle or avoid your triggers, depending on what they are.

Anything from certain lifestyle choices to what’s going at school or home can be triggers.

Are you drinking a lot of caffeine or alcohol? Are you staying up too late? Does your diet now consist of less nutrient-rich food? These things can also lend to anxiety and make you feel pretty crappy overall.

Along with the new lifestyle habits that often accompany a big life change, like going off to college, other common triggers of anxiety in college students include:

  • homesickness
  • trouble making new friends
  • dating and breakups
  • heavy course load
  • adjustment to new surroundings
  • responsibilities of living on your own
  • uncertainty or fear about the future

Occasional anxiety may be something you can manage on your own, but many people find that professional treatment offers major relief. It’s OK to need a little extra help.

Most colleges have resources available to help students cope with stress and navigate the transition to campus and college life. Resources often include study support, peer counselling, and mental health services, such as therapy. Check your college campus health center or website to find out what’s available.

Some off-campus options for getting help:

Intrigued by online therapy? Here’s a look at our top picks.

Anxiety is common among college students, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down.

Getting involved in school activities, making new friends, and leaning on your loved ones can help. You can also reach out to a campus counselor or local therapist who can suggest coping strategies or treatment.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.

8 Ways to Cope with College Anxiety and Stress (2024)


8 Ways to Cope with College Anxiety and Stress? ›

Practice self-care. Many students struggle to maintain healthy eating habits, consistent exercise, and regular sleep without the structure of home. But self-care behaviors like these are extremely important for regulating mood and helping people cope with stress.

How do college students deal with stress and anxiety? ›

Practice self-care. Many students struggle to maintain healthy eating habits, consistent exercise, and regular sleep without the structure of home. But self-care behaviors like these are extremely important for regulating mood and helping people cope with stress.

What are 3 healthy ways to cope with anxiety in stressful situations? ›

Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Exercise regularly. Get plenty of sleep.

How can we cope with anxiety and stress give an example? ›

Coping Strategies
  • Take a time-out. ...
  • Eat well-balanced meals. ...
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
  • Get enough sleep. ...
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. ...
  • Take deep breaths. ...
  • Count to 10 slowly. ...
  • Do your best.
Sep 8, 2010

What are 12 ways to manage stress? ›

Consider these twelve ways to manage stress when you feel anxious or overwhelmed.
  • Get proper rest and sleep. ...
  • Focus on health and nutrition. ...
  • Be active. ...
  • Have a stress outlet. ...
  • Find connections. ...
  • Practice self-care. ...
  • Manage time effectively. ...
  • Stay organized.

What are 5 ways to cope with anxiety? ›

For tips on coping with panic attacks, see our section on what helps to manage panic attacks.
  • Talk to someone you trust add. ...
  • Try to manage your worries add. ...
  • Look after your physical health add. ...
  • Try breathing exercises add. ...
  • Keep a diary add. ...
  • Complementary and alternative therapies add.

What are six ways to cope with anxiety? ›

Here are seven strategies she uses to help manage anxiety in the moment — and why they work to relieve stress.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Simple stretches.
  • Use your words.
  • Guided imagery.
  • Change your language.
  • Lose yourself in music.
  • Make a new playlist.
Feb 9, 2022

What are 3 ways to prevent stressful situations? ›

Eat a well-balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise on a regular basis. Engage in self-relaxation. Try muscle relaxation, breathing or meditation exercises, prayer, yoga, or swimming to reduce stress. Spend time with nature or listen to quiet music.

What are 7 techniques you can use to cope with stress? ›

7 Ways to Manage Your Stress
  • Track your stressors. Use a journal to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. ...
  • Set limits. ...
  • Tap into your support system. ...
  • Make one health-related commitment. ...
  • Manage your devices. ...
  • Enhance your sleep quality. ...
  • Seek additional help.
Jun 5, 2018

What are the 4 coping skills for anxiety? ›

Sample coping strategies
  • Deep breathing.
  • Tensing and relaxing major muscle groups (progressive muscle relaxation)
  • Meditation or guided imagery.

What are the 5 types of coping strategies? ›

There are many different conceptualizations of coping strategies, but the five general types of coping strategies are problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, social support, religious coping, and meaning making.

How do I calm my anxiety back to college? ›

3 Tips for Easing Anxiety About Returning to Campus
  1. Connect With Campus Resources. Connecting with your school's mental and physical health services can be a helpful way to support your success in the new school year. ...
  2. Reach Out to Friends. Who's in your support network? ...
  3. Take Care of Yourself.
Aug 13, 2021

What is the biggest stress for college students? ›

Academic demands and test anxiety

Concerns about academic performance are one of the most common trigger points of stress for college students.

Why do college students struggle with stress? ›

Why are you stressed? College students commonly experience stress because of increased responsibilities, a lack of good time management, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and not taking enough breaks for self-care. Transitioning to college can be a source of stress for most first-year students.

How do you deal with anxiety in college class? ›

Anxiety is common among college students, but that doesn't mean you have to take it lying down. Getting involved in school activities, making new friends, and leaning on your loved ones can help. You can also reach out to a campus counselor or local therapist who can suggest coping strategies or treatment.

Why do college students struggle with anxiety? ›

College students face many new challenges. Often for the first time, they're living away from their families and communities. They're suddenly presented with new surroundings, social situations, and a heavy academic workload. Very often these new challenges can feel overwhelming, leading to depression or anxiety.

What is the main cause of anxiety in college students? ›

Stress and anxiety in college students can be caused by several factors. Some common causes of anxiety include transitions, academic pressure, peer pressure, new social settings, and unmet expectations. Knowing what is causing student anxiety makes identifying coping skills easier.

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