January 20, 2018

The 5 best stress-busters for a (formerly) stressed out college student

Photo courtesy of Nicole Alliegro

My roommates and I take a break from our work in the library to de-stress,
following tip number two and getting in a good laugh!

Thousands of bloggers, columnists, self-help experts, and everyday people offer their advice to others on how to stay stress-free at school, work, or just in life. But oftentimes college students may find their tips not practical or relatable—really, what young adult with a five-class course load, a part time job, and any shred of a respectable social life has the time to take a soothing bubble bath and sip wine?

Yet college is arguably one of the first most stressful times we experience on the road adulthood. We have to make the grade, decide what to do with our lives, learn to grow on our own, and somehow keep our heads above water.

According to speaker and life coach Felicia Harlow, the adjustment students have to make to college life is also a major source of stress.

“Any change, good or bad, has the potential to stress us out, and change is a natural part of our lives from the time we are born to the time we leave college and beyond,” Harlow says. “So many things are sources of stress for college students, like feeling homesick, dealing with financial issues, roommate problems, dating, family issues, academic overload, working while in school, commuting, partying too much at the expense of classes and grades, and more. The amount of change students experience can feel overwhelming.”

With all of the potential stress college can cause, it seems to me like students need better strategies to help relax and wind down amid our fast-paced society… going to acupuncture every other week just won’t cut it. (And on our budgets? Come on!)

So, I present to you the following list: my top five ways to de-stress, expertly catered for the technologically tuned-in twenty-something. The best thing about these stress busters is that they perfectly epitomize the college student’s plight; my ideas are suitable for any time of year (and any stress level) and, of course, completely free.

The list below will also help you make de-stressing a priority, a crucial step in achieving harmony and balance in life, according to Harlow.

What’s more? You don’t even have to leave your computer to start. Open up a new tab alongside this blog post and you’re on your way to a healthier lifestyle. (Okay, maybe just a few healthier moments, but still… start!)

1. Learn

This may sound crazy, considering one of your chief objectives while at college is to do this very thing and may be one of the sources of your stress. But if you, like me, can hardly justify taking a few minutes to yourself when there are more bullets on your to-do list to conquer, this method of de-stressing is the way to go. Sometimes, simply taking your mind off of school work or the demands of your extracurricular activities and diverting your focus to another worthy and interesting topic—current events, art, sports, whatever—will do the trick. You’ll be so wrapped up in reading an article or watching a how-to video that you’ll forget (just for a little while) about all of your other anxieties or responsibilities. Plus, you’ll take away awesome new tidbits of information and fun facts to share (or, maybe, impress with).

Don’t know where to start? Surf About.com to find a topic that suits your fancy, and just keep clicking through the related posts until you exhaust your attention. Here, you can read up on anything, serious or not: cars, real estate, fashion, celebrity gossip…the list goes on and on. I also recommend the Thought Catalog for intelligent discussions of the newest trends in culture and society. This site disguises learning with refreshing articles that are nonpartisan, positive, and important.

2. Laugh

This is so especially important, particularly given all of the issues college students must confront that are no laughing matters. It may seem obvious that your daily routine should regularly include humor, but consciously setting aside time for something funny is a surefire way to reduce stress.

You don’t even have to worry or wonder how you’ll actually find entertaining ways to fill your dedicated laugh time; look no further than awesome blogs like Buzzfeed or Runt of the Web. These sites are updated constantly with content, photos, videos, lists, and posts that practically guarantee a good, all-around LOL. What’s more, everything is current, so the more that happens in the world, the funnier the blogs are, and of course, the less stressed you become!

I personally recommend Buzzfeed’s awesome article, “13 Simple Steps to Get You Through a Rough Day.” I have it saved on my Internet’s favorites tab, that’s how often I need to de-stress. Find it here, and smile.

3. Be Creative

I’m sure you’ve heard this before to help de-stress; draw if you’re an artist, sing if you’re a musician, work out if you’re an athlete, sew if you’re a designer. But what happens if you’re not any of those things? Or, if you just don’t have any inspiration at the moment? You can still be creative, which will help you let loose and feel fresher and freer than when you’re memorizing formulas or chemical reactions.

It is so simple to use the web to foster your creativity. We all know about Tumblr, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and similar sites that can virtually inspire your imaginative side and get you brainstorming about your personal style, hobbies, food, and even future wedding. Need to be more literal (say, if you’re in a state of manic stress)? Go to DrawAStickman.com. I’m not kidding—do it. It is mindless fun, and you can revisit the site every so often for new stories and scenarios that will kick start your silly side and slide the stress right off your tense shoulders. If you want something more logical and challenging, head straight to JigZone to complete a few puzzles. After you click into place the first few pieces, you’ll be totally absorbed.

4. Chill

You can hear this warning one thousand times over from your parents, roommates, friends, whomever, but, as with laughing, until you purposely put aside time in your busy schedule to do this, it won’t be effective. As Harlow suggests, deliberately devote a few minutes of your day to “doing nothing” to become balanced and stress free.

I understand that literally doing nothing can be a challenge for us students, who are always so used to being connected and in touch with technology, people, and the world. My suggestion is to supplement your chill time with some good tracks. Try Last.fm or Pandora if you’re bored of the music on your iPod or want to be surprised by what comes up on shuffle. iTunes also works just fine.

The catch? You really have to do nothing! Pull up your laptop’s screensaver if you’ve got the Internet radio on and zone out to a crooning Adele and rainbow bubbles gurgling across your desktop. If you’re in iTunes, hit a playlist and turn on the visualizer (Control/Command + T). Staring at pops and bursts of color is remarkably very relaxing.

5. And if all else fails…

So, you’ve blown through the top four tips and you still feel your panic level rising. You’ve got three papers due on the same day, you still need to balance your club’s budget that was due last meeting, you had to skip club soccer practice for a last-minute history cram session, and you may have forgotten to eat breakfast. (Morning was ages ago, so who knows.) What to do? The Quiet Place.

I also have this wondrously soothing, 90-second exercise marked in my Internet favorites bar, but thankfully I’ve only had to rely on it a few times to get me through tough days. You really have to dedicate yourself to doing it (no technology or interruptions for less than two minutes), but the results are amazing. The Quiet Place simply reminds you to breathe, calm down, and consider what’s really important for a few moments before returning back to whatever you were doing. I want to leave some air of mystery around what exactly The Quiet Place does, but seriously, check it out. I think it could be exactly what you need.

Nicole Alliegro will be a junior at Ramapo College of New Jersey (Class of 2014). She is studying Communication Arts with a concentration in journalism and is editor of the campus newspaper. She will intern at WABC-TV in New York City in the fall. Aside from reading and writing, Nicole enjoys traveling, watching anything on Bravo and spending time with her family and friends. Follow her on twitter or send her an email.


  1. Soothing tunes! That’s the best way to relax….so come to one of my shows or check out my tunes for some easy going music.

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