How to Navigate Through the Stresses of College Life

*Written by Cami Wylie*

College is a stressful time. It’s fun and new and exciting, but it also brings on a lot of stress. I myself, as well as my friends, know that it is easy to get extremely overwhelmed in the midst of midterms and finals. You are bombarded with exams on top of your assignments and extracurricular activities, all while trying to hang out with friends and live a healthy lifestyle. It’s exhausting.

However, I feel with a few mindset shifts and tips, we can help ourselves out of this pit of stress we find ourselves in. 

Some of this can be attributed to how the culture surrounding stress is different in high school compared to college. In high school, I stressed primarily about my grades and classes, whereas in college I stress about my grades and about searching for internships and jobs. In an environment like Lehigh, there is a crazy hustle culture where everyone is smart, driven and wants to accomplish everything they can. Everyone is searching for internships and involving themselves in clubs and volunteering all to make their resumes better in pursuit of obtaining a job. Having these extra stressors can make coping with stress in general more difficult.

It is easy to look around and compare yourself to driven students in an environment like Lehigh. For me, I get most stressed when I compare myself to other people. I feel as if I’m not doing enough when I see other people having interviews, searching and applying for jobs and attending career fairs, even though I am doing the same thing. 

Through all of this, I have realized one thing. Stressing about what others are doing will get you absolutely nowhere. The more time you spend stressing about what others are doing, the less time you have to be productive and commit to an opportunity that will help you professionally. We all have different goals, and we all have various paths to get where we want to go. So comparing yourself to someone else who has a different mindset in achieving things from the outside can look like they are doing better than you, when in reality they are just opting for a different path. This constant comparison is unhelpful in your college journey. It is imperative that we shift our mindsets from comparison to compassion. 

Credit: Pinterest

This is easier said than done, but I have a few tips on how you can really focus on yourself and reach your full potential through the stress of college. 

First, try to be kind to yourself in this process. There will be times when you feel discouraged and stuck. My go-to tip whenever I feel like I am not doing enough is to think back to a year ago. A year ago today, I had never even drafted a professional resume before, I had no idea how to navigate any job platforms and I wasn’t involved in a single club. Now, I look back and see how far I’ve grown from then, and that is inspiring! Reflect back to where you were a year ago and see how far you have grown. This can inspire you, too, to continue to work hard and shift your focus back to yourself. 

Another tip: when you find yourself comparing yourself to others, actively engage in shifting your mindset. Tell yourself, “this is not helping me, I can focus on my own progress and journey,” and really believe that. Actively reminding yourself to refrain from comparison will lead you to stop the act altogether. 

A final tip to prioritize yourself through the stress of college is to engage in some self care activities. These small actions that you can incorporate into your daily routine will make you feel well nourished and ready to take on that study session, paper or dreaded assignment. Some of my go-to self care activities include taking a long shower, doing a face mask, getting more sleep and going for nature walks. These tips seem silly, but they are absolutely necessary for you to take full care of yourself and feel ready to take on the day. 

Credit: Pinterest

Focusing on your own progress and forgetting your peers as competitors is the number one priority. If you can refrain from comparing yourself to others, the stresses of college life will be much more manageable. Focus on your own progress and give yourself grace here and there. 

College is a journey which brings many stressful challenges but remember to be compassionate with yourself and know that these challenges will only make you more resilient. 

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