Eight in ten college students say they have experienced stress in the past three months. (1) Learning how to cope with stress will improve your college experience, help you maintain good physical and mental health and help prevent drug and alcohol abuse, which can have a devastating effect on your future.

Here are six proven ways to cope with stress in college.

Reduce Stressors

Preventing stress in the first place is the best way to cope with it. Think about the things that cause you the most stress and work to mitigate them. If you’re experiencing financial stress, working out a budget or using a money-tracking app to help you curb your spending can help you stay in the black. If you tend to procrastinate, develop and stick to a schedule to help ensure your assignments are in on time. Controlling what you can will leave you with more energy to better cope with the stressors you can’t control. 

1. Breathe

Deep breathing reduces stress hormone levels on the spot, leaving you feeling calmer and better able to cope. Whenever you’re feeling particularly stressed out, take a few minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply and slowly.

2. Exercise

Exercise reduces stress hormones, stimulates the production of feel-good brain chemicals and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety. (2) Strive to get a half hour of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week. Brisk walking, swimming, biking and dancing are great ways to get exercise. You may also consider joining an intramural sports team for regular exercise and healthy camaraderie. 

3. Meditate

Meditation not only reduces stress on the spot, but it also helps your body learn to better respond to it, according to research. Meditation brings calmness and clarity, and it can help reduce symptoms of mental illness like depression and anxiety. To meditate, sit quietly and comfortably. Breathe deeply and slowly, and stay focused on your breath. When thoughts come into your head, don’t judge them. Simply acknowledge them and then return your focus to your breath. With regular practice, it will become easier to clear your mind during meditation.

4. Have Fun with Friends

Having fun with your friends can go a long way toward reducing your stress. Engage in enjoyable activities with your pals to improve your attitude and foster closer relationships. Having fun can even prevent burnout and improve your overall health. Find healthy, engaging ways to have fun with your friends for a serious dose of stress relief.

5. Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Good overall health is a major factor for reducing stress, and good health requires healthy lifestyle habits. Make sure you’re getting at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Get regular exercise. Quit smoking, and if you drink, do so in moderation. 

6. If You Can’t Cope with Stress, Seek Help

Too much stress can dramatically reduce your quality of life and sense of well-being and lead to unhealthy coping behaviors. If stress is causing problems in your life, consider professional help. Talking to a professional can help you change thought and behavior patterns that promote feelings of stress, and it can help you develop skills and strategies to reduce and cope with stress in your life. Reducing your stress will lead to a happier, healthier college experience and improve your overall outlook on life.

(1) https://www.stress.org/college-students/

(2) http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/benefits-of-exercisereduces-stress-anxiety-and-helps-fight-depression