Stress — it should be a four letter word. We all have it, hate it, and deal with it. It’s the reason we devour pounds of chocolate. Through the years we have learned ways of handling stress that work best for us.
College students are a bit different though. They have been shielded somewhat from the stress of what we will call “real life.” As they grew up, yes, they knew some stress: the stress to trying to make good grades, succeed at extracurricular activities, and fit in with different groups of people. However, we as parents handled that stress. When they were stressing over being tired, we would make them go to bed. When they stressed over filling out college applications, we helped them. When they were stressed because they were not feeling well, we kept them out of school and nursed them back to health. That was our job as parents.
But that job has changed. We’ve gone from caretaker to coach. College student’s deal with the stress of meeting with new friends, demanding classes, living on their own, financial issues, campus jobs, changing values, research papers and much more. We aren’t with them every day and we don’t have the ability to immediately de-stress them. How can we help them?
First and foremost, let your student know you are there for her. You’re a good listener. You don’t mind talking through issues. Keep in mind there will be times when your student will call you and tell you that life is awful, she hates her school, her friends, etc. She is down in the dumps. After you hang up, you continue to worry and wonder if you should be calling someone. She, on the other hand, had a friend knock on the door. She’s gone out to dinner and forgotten what she was upset about. She is okay.
Here are steps you can take to help your college student find her way through the stress.
- Suggest your student select healthier foods and never skip breakfast. Breakfast can improve energy levels, help maintain focus in the classroom and increase the overall quality of a student’s diet. Students should choose leaner protein options, make half their grains whole grains and consume plenty of fruits and vegetables. The MSU Dining Centers have some great choices for our students. Suggest your student visit the Dining Services website to find out more information.
- Remind your student to stay physically active. Missouri State has a state-of-the-art campus recreation center. The Foster Family Recreation Center offers numerous ways students can be physically active at all hours of the day. Encourage your student to take a tour of the fitness center, try a BearFit class or take advantage of adventure trips. Physical activity is a great way to manage stress and meet new people. Refer your student to the Campus Recreation website to see a full listing of activities.
- Encourage your student to recharge with sleep. It is recommended that students get 7-9 hours of sleep a day. Sleep is crucial for optimum performance inside and outside of the classroom.
- Remind your student to take advantage of the Taylor Health & Wellness Center. At Taylor Health & Wellness Center, your student can learn take care of her whole self. Share the Taylor Health & Wellness website with your student.
- Address signs of stress early. Forgetfulness, moodiness and fatigue can all be early signs of stress. Our students need to make stress management a part of their everyday college life to avoid the side effects.
- Express confidence in your student’s abilities.
- Remind your student of a time she managed a stressful situation with a positive outcome.
- Create a care plan. If emotional concerns of mood, anxiety or substance use have been a part of your student’s past, ensure you have a plan for how these emotional care needs will be met. The Counseling Center can help you navigate the best treatment options.
Let your student know you understand that and you will always love and support her. That, for college students, is so very important to know.