The 10 Worst Ways Collegians Handle Stress

November: leaves are falling, birds are flying south, students are burnt out and anxious about the impending doom of final exams.

Working with college students on a daily basis and being a recent graduate myself, I’ve seen some interesting behaviors around this time of year. So in the spirit of this month’s RESPΣKt topic of stress management, it’s time to talk about the ten worst ways we see collegians handling stress.

1. Not sleeping

The classic reaction to being stressed about the studying you have to do, papers you have to write, and group projects you have to single-handedly finish. When there aren’t enough hours in the day, students often take to the night. The problem? While you might gain a few hours to stare at your computer, odds are they are not the most productive. Coffee can only help so much after an all-nighter in the library, and you would probably do better on the exam if you got more than a 15-minute power nap.

2. Not eating

The truth is, the college student cannot live on coffee alone. But some of them certainly try! It can be easy to get caught up in schoolwork and life, but it’s also important to leave the library from time to time and put get something other than caffeine and cheez-its from the campus convenience store in your stomach.

3. Stress Eating

On the flip side of not eating is stress eating – my personal go-to. Somehow sitting in one spot thinking about how stressed you are really works up an appetite. Usually, if there is a study group, there have to be some kind of snacks involved, and they’re typically not Whole 30-approved. Some people also munch on something just to stay awake. Refer back to number one.

If you are looking for resources specific to eating disorders, please visit the National Eating Disorders Association’s website.

4. Procrastinating

Ah yes, why tackle those projects head on when you can instead take the What Carb Are You quiz? (I’m pasta, by the way – it was research for this post). Sometimes collegians harmlessly want to check and see what the LCs are up to on Instagram, but then look up and realize they’ve been scrolling for two hours and haven’t crossed anything off of that to-do list. It may seem like you need to watch another makeup tutorial about how to get that perfect fall look or teach yourself to knit a sweater for your dog, but odds are there are better things to be doing, and you’ll thank yourself in the long run.

5. Lashing out at others

Picture it: you’ve just spent the past day and night in back-to-back visits with professors, the organizations you’re involved with, and the library. Just as you lay down to nap, your friend comes into your room to tell you about her classes that got canceled and what she’s going to do with her free time. You’d probably say something not so nice in response due to lack of sleep and frustration. I’ve seen several cases when individuals channel their stress into anger at other people, and it’s typically not good for either party. Let’s just all be friends, ok?

6. Overdoing retail therapy

The Treat Yo Self episodes of Parks and Rec have definitely led many a college student to justify clicking away from their term paper. Coupons coming to your university email only further this – of course, you need to look at the 50% off sale, college students are living on a budget! But for the sake of your wallet and your work, maybe it’s best to flag that for after the paper is done. We all know they’ll probably run that sale again in a few weeks.

7. Taking to social media with all of their problems

This could be seen as another form of procrastination, but I think it’s slightly different. This is something that has gotten more prominent with the spike in social media usage. From personal experience, I know that my tweets got a lot of likes if they included some sort of criticism of my own study habits. We typically exaggerate a little bit when posting things on social media, and that only fuels the fire. Is Becky from the fifth grade really going to benefit from your perfect use of this Kim K picture? Why do we encourage each other to do this?? I don’t have an answer.

8. Trying to be the most stressed person in the room

Complaining about studying over the internet and publicizing how busy we are can lead to competitions to see who has the most on their plate. You all probably know how this back and forth goes: “Oh, you got 3 hours of sleep last night? How sad, I only got two.” While this can be frustrating, we should all probably refer back to the value of personal growth and try to empathize with others instead of overpowering them in these situations. It’s not always a competition.

9. Shutting out support systems

Whether they’re our sisters, friends, parents, or mentors, we all have people who are happy to cheer us on and invest in our success. Oftentimes people shut out the world around them because they feel like they are too stressed to interact with others, but sometimes it’s helpful to take ten minutes to call that friend and get a reminder of all the good times when you weren’t weighed down by stress. They might have some good advice, or they might just be able to brighten your mood – I’ve found that both can be important in the grand scheme of things.

10. Not taking time for themselves

While you don’t have to practice your perfect yoga poses in order to take time for yourself, it’s still  incredibly important. Stress does take a heavy toll, so sometimes it’s important to take a break and think about yourself. I know a few consultants use the Headspace app to de-stress for a few minutes every day, but this could also be little things like going to get your hair cut, trying a new skincare routine, or reading a book for a little while. These little breaks to do things for yourself can ensure that you come back recharged and ready to work. Don’t let this turn into procrastinating, though, or we’re back where we started!


At some point we have all done at least one of these. As finals season approaches, it’s important to reflect on what we are doing to manage stress effectively. For stress management tips and tricks, check out November’s RESPΣKT resources!

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