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6 Ways to Alleviate Stress for College Students

It’s a cycle familiar to many college students: you’re stressed, so you buy something to help you deal, and you end up just feeling more stressed because you spent the money. Stress spending isn’t unique to college students, but due to the inordinate number of stressors inherent in college life, co-eds are especially susceptible. Beyond wrecking a budget, the problem with stress spending is that after the initial lift that comes with the purchase, you are still left with the underlying stressor. The best way to curb stress spending is to find ways to manage your stress. Here are six strategies for decreasing your stress level and keeping you out of erratic spending territory.

1. Sleep

College life is busy, and it can be hard to prioritize sleep when you have so much to do. There is a reason pulling all-nighters is almost synonymous with the college years. But not getting the required amount of sleep can lead to very real health consequences. Sleep deprivation can affect performance, cause anxiety, depression and increase the risk for heart disease and obesity. Adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, preferably on a consistent schedule.

2. Move

Regular exercise is an amazing natural stress reliever. You don’t have to become a gym rat to reap the benefits of movement; just 20 minutes of activity a day will help reduce stress levels. The key to regular exercise is choosing something you enjoy, whether it is rock climbing or nature walks or yoga or pick-up basketball. Find something you like to do and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

3. Eat real food

Eating can become an afterthought when your schedule is packed, and it can lead you to skip meals and end up grabbing whatever is available on the go, usually highly processed and fatty foods. In fact, when you are stressed, your body craves food high in fat, sugar and salt. But eating this way consistently can lead to lowered immunity and sugar imbalances that cause mood swings, poor concentration and fatigue.

5. Limit alcohol

This one is hard for many college students to recognize. They see drinking as a means of stress relief, a way to blow off steam at the end of the day. But research has shown that drinking while your brain is under stress makes you more likely to turn to alcohol more often, leading to addiction and chronic health issues later on. Like stress spending, the temporary stress relief found after a few drinks doesn’t actually solve the core issue.

6. Get a pet

If the thought of coming home every day to an animal brings a smile to your face, you might think about taking the plunge into pet ownership. Pets can have real stress-relieving benefits. Researchers at Ohio State University found that students who live with a dog or cat were less likely to feel lonely and depressed. Of course, before you get a pet, you need to make sure you have the time, space and the right supplies (like rabbit cages for bunnies, leashes and dishes for a puppy, cat condos and litter boxes for kitties) to properly care for your animal friend.

The stress you feel as a college student is real and can lead to bad habits like stress spending. Work on decreasing your stress and curbing those habits with proper sleep, regular exercise, eating well, limiting alcohol and spending time with a beloved pet.

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