stresed out students
August 1, 2014

Researcher Offers Simple Tips To Help College Students Fend Off Freak-Outs

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

A new study from the University of Cincinnati's Health Promotion and Education Program reveals that many college students are stressed out and are not coping with that stress well.

Keith King, professor and program coordinator, says there are simple ways to relieve stress and feel happier — despite the fact that students rarely use them.

"We have a whole array of different stress-management techniques college students can use and that we teach, but they're not using them. That contributes to their stress levels, which contributes to their unhappiness," King says.

There are many simple and effective strategies for managing stress. King suggests the following for both immediate and long-term soothing of frayed nerves.

Immediate actions should include:

Stop and breathe: "In the moment when you're stressed, you need to slow down, you pause, you take some deep breaths. Maybe you count backwards from 10. Those types of things calm everything down and slow it down."

Look beyond the moment: "Try to see the bigger picture. Is what you're experiencing really that big of a deal or not?"

Use your support network:
"Everyone has phones on them. Call your buddy and let him know what's going on so you can express those feelings and get them off you as quickly as possible."

Long term strategies should include:

Modify your diet and exercise:
"People who eat healthy and exercise tend to have lower stress levels. Exercise allows for some of that negative energy to get burned off. Eating healthy helps individuals avoid feeling weighted down."

Take time for yourself: "Take time out of the day that's your time. It could be just 10 minutes. Go outside and walk, just enjoy something for you. If you hate exercising, then do something you enjoy. That's paramount."

H.A.L.T.: "Make sure you're not Hungry, you're not Angry, you're not Lonely and you're not Tired. If you can take care of those four things, you're significantly more likely to be unstressed."

The data used by King and his team was collected from an anonymous, voluntary survey taken by 498 students. The survey assessed the participants' overall happiness and stress level. Students who reported lower perceived happiness also reported higher levels of stress and lower emotional closeness to others. A majority of the students reported that they felt stressed, but were not acting to alleviate the stress. For example, 61 percent reported high stress levels and 72 percent reported low frequency for using stress-management techniques.

People tend to overcomplicate their lives, according to King, mostly by ignoring the potential benefit of simple activities that could reduce their stress—such as a five-minute walk outside, or a or a quick water break.

"It's not rocket science, but the reality of it is a lot of people aren't doing the positive to get happy. People don't really know or they think some of the basics to happiness that we suggest are too fluffy. They're not. They're research-supported. Do these things and you'll feel happier," King says.

He believes that everyone can benefit from such strategies.

"This study is looking at college students, but it is generalizable to all people. We recommend the students take this information and share it with their families. Let them know if they want to be happier, they need to focus on reducing their stress and get some social support and care."

The findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Happiness & Well-Being.