Managing a stressful semester
Between juggling a full course load and getting involved in activities on campus, it’s no wonder that students can begin to feel a bit overwhelmed. Luckily, there are a multitude of resources available on campus to help students cope with their stress in healthy ways.
According to the American Institute of Stress, eight out of 10 college students say they have sometimes or frequently experienced stress in their daily lives. More than three quarters of American college students are dealing with stress.
Junior Ell Repsher’s biggest stressors as a student are managing her course load and balancing extracurricular activities. In addition to being a marketing major, Repsher is a member of the professional business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi and a dancer on the USD Dance Company.
“Weeks where everything is due at once stress me out,” Repsher said. “Projects, tests, and quizzes always seem to fall during a certain chunk of time and you definitely have to learn to manage your time well.”
Repsher has found ways to relieve the stress of her workload through a variety of activities.
“Exercise is good because I can focus on something else and it helps to clear my mind and I feel reenergized afterwards,” Repsher said. “I also like to dance and spend time with my friends.”
As for how she manages stress, Repsher suggested being aware of productivity and using that to plan the rest of her week more effectively.
“I would recommend using a planner and being very aware of managing your time,” Repsher said. “Also, be aware of when you’re most productive — I am not productive at night so I know to plan to tackle big projects in the morning when I am most awake and focused.”
For some students, time management skills seem to improve as their academic career advances. Repsher recalled experiencing more stress as a first-year student compared to how much she experiences now as a junior.
“One of my first-semester classes was extremely challenging,” Repsher said. “There was a lot of work in a subject I wasn’t familiar with, and it was so hard adjusting to college and the teaching style of my professor’s class. It was a shift in having little responsibility to total responsibility that I wasn’t prepared for, but it helped me to manage my time better by learning how to prioritize so I could worry less.”
“They have counselors available, and there’s also a lot of helpful information online if you are looking for resources or support,” Repsher said.
It is difficult to manage all the stress that comes with taking multiple courses, but organizing and focusing on one task at a time, such as a daily planner, can help to make the workload more manageable.
Sophomore Sonia Steen shared that although her workload is manageable for the most part, it can become a bit overwhelming.
“Big assignments and exams usually stress me out,” Steen said. “Especially when I have them going on in all of my classes at the same time, like during finals.”
Midterms and finals can be a stressful point in the semester, but USD often provides relaxation opportunities such as therapy dogs or care packages to help students relax.
The USD Smile Club is a student-run organization that also helps students to de-stress by offering events and giveaways.
Steen finds ways to relieve stress by making time to do things that she enjoys, such as walking her dog or trying out new healthy recipes.
“Focus on the things you can control and try not to worry too much about things you can’t,” Steen said. “It’s normal to feel stressed occasionally as a student, but if you feel stressed all the time, you should consider making some changes with your schedule.”
Junior Celesta Loo, a Scholastic Assistant for transfer students, explained how she supports students in their transitions to USD.
“I listen to their problems and concerns,” Loo said. “I understand the stress and common hardships coming in as a transfer into a new environment, socially and academically, and I try to help them work through it in the best way possible.”
Loo emphasized that it is important for new students to make connections with others to help adjust to the new environment.
“You have to really put yourself out there; joining clubs and organizations that interest you will help you to feel more at home at USD,” Loo said. “Friends can definitely help you through the times where you are not sure if you can manage everything, and that is important.”
Junior Jazmin Gonzales, who transferred last year, and stated that she feels the pressure of graduating and being able to complete her classes on time. She worries about being successful in her courses so that she does not have to take classes again and have debt pile up.
Similar to other students, Gonzales relieves stress from the semester by spending time with her friends or her boyfriend and by watching TV.
“My most stressful class this semester is Rhetorical Theory,” Gonzales said. “There are only six people in that class and I get nervous because the professor is able to call on me and get more involved. I may get used to it later this semester, but so far I’m scared and intimidated.”
Gonzales added that this is her first semester that she is not working a job while taking classes. She is able to better manage her workload because she can study without having the stress of work in the back of her mind.
To students who are feeling overwhelmed, Gonzales reminds not to forget that even though school is important, the state of their well-being is more important.
“Don’t forget — you’re a student! It’s okay to cry when you want or have fun every now and then,” Gonzales said. “Don’t just focus on school, but focus on your life as well.”
While it is nearly impossible to completely avoid stress in college, having a knowledge of resources and a support system can help a student to manage their courses and to balance their personal lives. Making connections with new friends, developing time-management skills, and spending time doing enjoyable activities are all ways that students can alleviate stress that will hopefully carry into life after college.