As the upcoming school year approaches, or as your summer classes draw to an end, the fears of academic stress can begin to emerge. Students can stress at every college, but elite universities in particular can cultivate an environment in which an academic stress culture can occur. Between competing with your classmates and just trying to pass your classes, surviving this stress culture can take a lot of energy and time.
Try out these eight ways to survive your college’s stress culture.
1. Take time away from academics
Yes, you go to school for learning and stuff, but we all know that we don’t just study at college. Get out of the library, get out of your professor’s office, go experience college. Go to a university club event, a crappy frat party or just step away from your laptop and textbooks.
2. Sleep more
You can’t function properly if you don’t sleep well. It might not even be how much sleep you get, but the quality of the sleep you experience. Try getting into a routine when it comes to bedtime. Cut off your studies at the same time every day, get in bed at the same time, get out of bed at the same time. This can get your body used to sleeping at a certain time, and eventually it will recalibrate your circadian rhythm and you’ll sleep better in no time.
3. Make some memes
Truthfully, I make a lot of memes. I find it helps to not take school too seriously. Whether I joke about having to stay in the library until 4:30 am (which I do not recommend) or about the time when my American history professor submitted my final grade as a whole letter grade lower than I actually earned, taking a step away from the scary nature of academics can help me feel human again (and, yes, this is an actual message I received on Tinder).
4. Pet a dog
Or a cat. Or a bunny. Better yet, go pet multiple animals. I don’t know much about cats or bunnies, but when humans and dogs make eye contact, both of their brains release oxytocin, aka the “happy chemical.” Spending time with a dog (or five) can benefit both you and the dog, so, barring any allergies or fears, why not do it?
5. Go for a walk
Like I said earlier, get out of the library. You shouldn’t only experience college surrounded by stacks of reference books and scholarly articles. Lucky for you, all colleges sit near something incredible: the outdoors. Take a study break and walk around the block or go to the gym for an hour. Get moving. Get some sun. Your body will thank you.
6. Spend time with your pals
Put the books away, crack open a bottle of rosé, turn on some bad TV. Doing something positive with your time (that’s not schoolwork) can give your mind a healthy break from cognitive exercise. Remind yourself of the positive people around you. The people you surround yourself with should want the best for you. In college, there’s a pretty good chance your friends struggle with stress too.
7. Talk to someone
Scoring well on your exams and in your coursework does not take priority over your health and well-being. If you find yourself needing more care than the rest of the options in this list offer, try reaching out to a counselor. You can probably find one at your university’s counseling center, but if not, your university should have a referral list somewhere that you can use to find one suited to your needs. Whether you need a pep talk or more extensive help, a therapist is a great place to start.
8. Go to the faculty
In lots of elite universities, stress culture can come from the institutional structure of the school. Talking to your university administration about the systemic issue of academic stress, especially if you start with someone lower down like a department chairperson or the head of your college, can help to put the issue on their radar. It might not have an immediate result, but if more and more students come forward about their experiences, it can pressure the university to change the way it operates in their academics.
This list does not hold all of the answers to the issues of stress culture. But it’s a start. From simple to nuclear options, you can surely find a method that works for you. You deserve to have a school supporting you as long as you study there. Stay strong, stressed-out college students. Stay strong.