Escape The Cycle of Stress

How do you handle college life when your academic coursework ramps up the difficulty? Kevin Hernandez ’19 is learning first-hand that the trick to escaping the stress cycle is often found in other people.

Studying until 2 a.m.

Class.

Studying until 2 a.m.

Class.

Meeting.

Studying.

AHHHHHHHHHH!

In my last blog I described the sophomore slump and how to overcome it. But I never realized how much more difficult my course work this semester would be compared to years past. Yes, I was told that college gets more and more difficult as you delve deeper into your major classes, but I never knew the extent to this difficulty.

In the past, I was able to do homework and study all throughout the week and have the weekend free to do whatever I pleased. However, this is not the case this year as I have recently been tackling major assignments and projects throughout the entire weekend. The increase in workload significantly increased my stress level, and it worsened whenever I had major assignments such as exams and lab reports all in the same week. I have never been so stressed out in my life than I have been over the last few weeks, and I was worried every day about how much work I still had to complete. Academics have always been my strong suit, and when I began to struggle I did begin to freak out a bit. This was the first time that I became very stressed about college, and I felt as if I was no longer the strong academic student that I have been my entire life. I began to reduce my participation in campus organizations I was involved in so that I could focus more and more on academics. After a couple weeks of this strain on my body, I realized that I could not stress out so much about school. Yes, academics and learning are important. That is the entire reason why we attend college. But school should not be your entire focus in life. The last few weeks have truly taught me this value, and I began to spend more time thinking of ways to de-stress whenever those difficult weeks in college arrive.

A major way that I am able to alleviate some of my stress is through participating in service around my school and Raleigh through my involvement in Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity. For some, service may be a chore to get through in order to complete an event or to be a part of the club. But for me, service is a way to not only give back to my community, but to be incorporated with something that is much greater than myself. This service can range from tutoring kids, to volunteering at a 5K race, or serving with people with disabilities. Whichever the type of service, any type of stress that I was previously experiencing becomes completely diminished. A big reason for this change is because when I serve, I am exposed to all of the hardships that others in this world go through. Some people would do anything to be able to be in the shoes of a struggling college student late at night studying, as it would mean that were receiving an education at a higher institution. This always relieves my stress and allows me to appreciate the amazing opportunities that I am given here at NC State and through the Goodnight Scholars Program.

Go exercise, play a game, or talk to close friends who brighten your day. You might be thinking that you could be spending this time to further work on your assignments, but believe me, it is much better to have your mind take a break.

One of the first things I advise to anyone that is super stressed out and overwhelmed is to stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and take a break of your task at hand. Not just a twenty second break, but actually get up and do something you enjoy. Go exercise, play a game, or talk to close friends who brighten your day. You might be thinking that you could be spending this time to further work on your assignments, but believe me, it is much better to have your mind take a break. I was feeling overwhelmingly stressed when I began writing this entry, as I had a million other assignments I had to do. I thought I would not be able to complete all my assignments, but instead I chose to take a break and I shut off my computer. I decided to go on a run and, when I came back to my room, I felt significantly more confident to tackle the rest of my homework assignments.

Another piece of advice to beat the late night sudden panic attacks is to study with a couple of friends in the same major as you. Studying with friends with the same major is a bit different then studying with others as there is a sense of reciprocity in the study group; people exchange ideas and study tips of the subject at hand. In my past semesters of college, I have struggled to find students with the same major as me. I am majoring in microbiology, and this major is quite small (no pun intended) compared to other majors offered here at NC state. As a result, it was difficult for me to find other students who found infectious disease studies interesting. This semester I am enrolled in my first major class, general microbiology and, as a result, I have made good friends with people that have the same passion for microbes as I do. Studying with them has made rough weeks of major assignments significantly less strenuous, as I know they are going through the same hardships as I am.

A third piece of advice to de-stress is to join organizations that you are happy to be a part of. I have friends who tell me that they joined a certain organization or club just because “it looks good on their résumé”, but they dread going to the weekly meeting. Yes, most organizations in college should improve your résumé, but there are more than enough organizations offered at college that you should be able to have fun too. If you are an active person, join an intramural sports team. If you love playing video games, there is a video game club. If you love giving back to the community, join a service organization. The point is, college is a lot of work and you will often get stressed out, so join an organization that will alleviate your stress as college is about having fun too. You may even discover a new passion by joining a new organization.

A final piece of advice to relieve stress is to take a day off every couple of weekends or so to get off campus with some friends and do an exciting activity together. An exciting activity could include taking a day trip to the beach, eating dinner downtown, or even something simple as watching a film at the movie theater. The point is to physically get away from your stresses. When you return, you will feel so much more relieved and prepared to tackle on anything that college has ready to throw at you.