This is a repost from The Good Intern’s blog. Read more posts here.
Being stressed to the max can be one of the unfortunate side effects of balancing an internship with school and all of the other responsibilities college kids tend to rack up. With a full plate, sometimes the stress can feel unbearable. Believe me, I’ve been there! Feeling anxious all of the time, getting sick often, suffering from constant headaches, and unusual weight loss can all be signs that you are experiencing too much stress. If you experience any of those symptoms your body is trying to tell you that you’re taking on too much!
Believe it or not, there are some more effective ways for managing your stress than pulling out your hair or banging your head on the wall. The main idea is to stay calm and not let your responsibilities consume you. YOU control your life and have the ability to enjoy it as long as you manage the stress effectively.
Here are some tips for handling stress in college:
Learn to say “no”
Although it pains me to admit it, one person is not capable of doing it all. As much as we sometimes like to try, there are things you simply have to say no to for the sake of your own sanity. Whether it’s an unachievable deadline or a favor for one of your student organizations, add the word “NO” to your vocabulary and stat. As long as you are polite about turning something down, you shouldn’t add to your stress by worrying about hurting people’s feelings. Hopefully, the people you are dealing with are mature adults and will understand your time constraints. If they don’t, reconsider your commitment to them in the first place.
Make your to-do list your best friend
Not only should you keep an ongoing list of everything that you need to accomplish, but you should prioritize that list. Put important tasks that need to be done sooner at the top and tasks that aren’t quite as pressing towards the bottom. This should prevent that overwhelming feeling of looking at your to-do list and not quite knowing where to start because there is so much. It will also keep you from jumping up in the middle of the night because you remembered one more thing that you have to get done. I manage my to-do list on a free program called Evernote, which hosts all of my lists online and lets me access and edit them from my phone, computer, or anywhere that has Internet. A service like this is great because it prevents any confusion that could come from not having your list on hand.
Eat and sleep (seriously)
If you need a reminder to eat and sleep you have more serious problems than I can help you with, yet so many busy college kids don’t get the amount of sleep they need each night or the right nutrition from their meals. Although I am a Ramen connoisseur and have a penchant for certain junk foods, I always make sure I’m getting some protein and greens each day as well. You don’t have to be a health nut, but realize that what you eat is what fuels you for the day and all of your activities. Always eat a good breakfast, whether you have time for a bowl of Cap’n Crunch or eggs and toast, you have to eat something. Also, go to bed! You are going to be exhausted and even more stressed if you aren’t getting close to 8 hours of sleep each night. If you’re a night owl do your best to avoid early morning classes and vice versa. Sleeping is not optional, although sometimes it can feel like it. Whether you need to find time for a power nap during the day or set yourself a bedtime, do what it takes to find time for this necessity.
It sounds trivial, but getting some quality time in the sun can really help reduce stress levels. Being outside boosts Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is vital to good health and causes the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural anti-depressants; just make sure you wear sunscreen (Associated Content). All throughout college I have opted to walk to class instead of drive, at least part of the way. If you are a commuter don’t waste your time fighting for the closest parking spot on campus in the morning. Instead, opt for the spot that is a bit farther and walk the rest of the way to class. Not only will you get some extra rays and a little exercise that will help wake you up and prepare you for the day, but walking can help clear your mind and give you a chance to plug into your iPod if that’s what helps you relax.
Schedule some “me” time
No matter how much you have going on you absolutely must schedule time for yourself, even if this means actually blocking out a period of time in your planner (I literally have Glee and Law and Order: SVU marked on my calendar every week). For some people, closing the door and watching a movie or an hour of TV in peace and quiet is what helps recharge their batteries, while for others going out and socializing or playing sports is what keeps them refreshed. A brain that is always working is eventually going to get exhausted and will start being unproductive, so give it a rest every once in a while.
If all else fails make some cuts
If you get to the point where there is nothing else you can do to alleviate some of the stress, it’s time to reevaluate your commitments. Are there student organizations that you aren’t really dedicated to? Do you have to be on three different intramural sports teams? Make a list of everything that takes up your time and take a good hard look at it to separate the important things from the other stuff that might be draining your time and energy.
Here are some helpful quizzes from Ask.com that can help you determine how stressed you are.
Michelle attends Missouri State University, and she has held eight internships in the three years that she’s been in college.