Under Pressure: The Stress of Being an Online Student and How to Beat It
To help people understand the negative effects of stress, the Health Resource Network has designated April 16 as National Stress Awareness Day. Stress can impact almost every aspect of a person’s health and has been linked to conditions as varied as hypertension, headaches, infertility, asthma attacks, and weakened immune systems. Unfortunately, stress can be a common occurrence for many college students. This condition is especially true for online students who are often juggling commitments like families and full-time jobs in addition to the deadlines associated with schoolwork. Stress can be managed though. The next time you feel a tension headache coming on or your shoulders tightening into knots, try some of the following techniques to conquer stress:
Create a Realistic Schedule
If you’re overwhelmed by having too many tasks to accomplish, the last thing you probably want to do is add another task, but the simple chore of organizing all your tasks will be time well spent. Write out all of the tasks you have to accomplish and include the deadlines associated with them. Prioritize the tasks and allocate time to each one. It’s important to be realistic. If you know a job will take two hours, don’t try to squeeze it into a one-hour timeframe. That will only cause further stress down the road when you inevitably miss your deadline.
Set Aside Time for Relaxation
No matter how crowded your schedule is, make sure you include some time to relax. It doesn’t need to be a huge chunk of time – even a few minutes dedicated to meditation or deep breathing can help to relieve stress. Think about which activities clear your head and bring you peace. These are your personal stress-busters and they are important to your well-being.
Connect with Other Students
One of the unique challenges online students sometimes face is a feeling of isolation. If you’re not sitting in a classroom and seeing other students face to face, you can begin to feel like you’re all alone. During stressful moments, it’s often beneficial to vent to someone who is going through – or has gone through – the same challenges. Fortunately, Ashford University students have a whole network of sympathetic ears available to you. Interact with your classmates in discussions and be an active participant on Ashford’s Facebook page. The Ashford Café is another great tool students can use to build a supportive online community. You don’t have to do it alone!
Get up and Exercise
The Mayo Clinic notes that “virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever.” Exercise floods your body with endorphins which naturally elevate your mood. That pump you feel after a great workout? Those are endorphins at work. Regular exercise will also improve your ability to get a good night’s sleep, which is another key to combatting stress.
Focus on the Why
It’s always easier to get through a rough patch if you can envision an end goal. When you’re starting to feel stressed about your coursework, take a moment to ask yourself why you enrolled in the first place. What prompted you to seek that degree? Are you looking to advance in your career or start a new career? Are you hoping to provide a better life for your family? Do you want to be a role model to your children? Or are you simply looking to expand your horizons and learn something new? All of these are potent motivators, but they can be easily forgotten during stressful times. Remind yourself and renew your sense of purpose.
There is always going to be stress associated with college, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. With a little relaxation and focus, you can pass the stress test.
Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education
“Stress Effects on the Body,” American Psychological Association, 2016. www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx