Young people in recovery must learn how to manage stress in college if they intend to maintain sobriety. Thing is, college life doesn’t lend itself to be relaxing and stress-free. The art of keeping a healthy college work-life balance can be tricky, even to the most organized and disciplined of students.
According to the American College Health Association’s 2016 National College Health Assessment, 42.9 percent of college students reported feeling more than average stress within the last 12 months and 44.4 percent of students felt tired, dragged out, or sleepy during the day at least three to five days in the past week. Reports of high levels of stress led to higher rates of students with mental health disorders and abusing substances, such as alcohol, Adderall, and marijuana.
If you are having trouble managing your stress and are worried it may eventually affect your sobriety, follow these ten steps on how to manage stress in college while also in recovery:
Learn The Art Of Napping And Prioritize Sleep.
The best way to manage stress in college is also to manage a healthy sleeping schedule. Easier said than done, it’s going to take serious effort to prioritize sleep when you might feel overwhelmed by four paper reports, a lab study, and midterm exams coming up in the same week. Ignore reckless folks who chant “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or “sleep is for the weak”—because, if anything, the opposite holds true.
Getting a good seven to nine hours of sleep each night will help you prepare for the day’s tasks and can also help organize your thoughts so that your papers make sense instead of appearing caffeine-crazed. Lack of sleep will only deteriorate your immune system, making you more susceptible to depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure. So, even when the stakes are high, take a quick power nap and wake up ready for battle!
Schedule Your Life Like You’re Important And Avoid Procrastination.
Go to Office Depot and buy a daily tracker right now. Going to college will make you feel like your life got crazy busy overnight, so it will be good habit to keep a written record of your daily activities. Schedule everything in your life, even if it feels unnecessary. Make sure to make time for meals, sleep, meeting a friend, doing homework, going to class, working a shift at your job, exercise, etc.
Time is valuable. Your time is the greatest commodity you have, so respect it. Avoid procrastination as much as you can. Aim to complete papers gradually by doing research one day, outlining your report another, and take a few days to write a few pages at a time. This will ease your mind instead of trying to cram it all in an all-nighter.
Don’t Take On Too Much And Learn To Say No.
Many young people in recovery make the mistake of taking on too many projects to avoid having any downtime and thus no opportunity to be bored and use substances. However, burdening yourself with too many commitments can drive you right back to alcohol and drug use anyway. Be reasonable with what you can accomplish in a day and try not to schedule more than one or two commitments per day.
You will need to learn how to say no in order to properly manage stress in college. If you have a paper due Friday, don’t risk helping someone with his or her project before you finish yours. Your education must remain a priority, just as how you hold yourself accountable for your sobriety. Let your friends and classmates know what responsibilities you have and only agree to help others when you are finished with your work.
Set Small Positive Goals To Make You Feel Good Every Day.
Life can feel overwhelming when you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything day after day, as if you’re constantly running behind in your life. Start finding the silver lining in simple goals. Every day, designate a little positive goal to accomplish so that at the end of it all, you accomplished at least one good thing. These goals should make you feel good, so don’t worry about whether they’re productive.
It could be as simple as washing three dishes to use for the next day or making an effort to finally eat at a new corner restaurant for lunch. Make them fun and strive to compliment a stranger or learn a new dance move. Do one load of laundry, read one chapter of a book, or write one page of a report. Recovery is about taking things one step at a time, so understand that being successful follows the same methods, too.
Go To Recovery Meetings And Build A Support Network.
Sobriety has to remain top priority, which means you will need to schedule time to regularly go to support group meetings between classes, homework, and other commitments. It may seem like a hassle to go to a recovery meeting, but having a support network of individuals who understand what you’re going through can help you manage stress in college.
These people can become your friends, sponsors, and people who will listen to you when you need them most. Meetings give the opportunity to vent about your life, struggles, and frustrations about being sober in college. For the sake of your mental health, recovery meetings can be lifesaving.
Control Your Environment And Get Rid Of Toxic Triggers.
Even if you weren’t in recovery, one way to manage stress in college is to eliminate negative people and triggers from your life. There’s no time for keeping relationships that make you doubt your self-worth or only serve as a temptation to use substances again. People who think the “true college experience” means partying nonstop are not the kind of friends you need.
College can be a blast without alcohol or drugs. Participate in clubs with people who are interested in the same things as you. Explore a new city, new cultures, and new ideas via the arts or sciences. The true college experience is surrounding yourself with like minded, positive people who want to grow into valuable citizens in society. Discover your voice in college and get rid of anyone who tries to silence it.
Manage Stress In College With Good Diet And Exercise.
Stress eating is an easy trap to fall into, especially since sweet and junk food simply tastes so good. Still, while chocolate and French fries may make you feel good for a moment, every recovering addict knows that all highs eventually crash. Eating your stress away can lead to other health issues, especially if you consume too much food high in carbohydrates, sodium, and processed ingredients.
Maintaining a healthy diet and routine exercise is a natural way to manage stress in college and recovery. Don’t blame lack of time for cooking for a bad diet, either. Buy prepared salads and opt for healthier options than fast food. Exercise between classes by using the stairs, walking more often, and stretching before class. Morning or afternoon jogs can also help you unwind before or after a busy school day and can be rewarded with a little treat every now and then.
Fall In Love With A New Hobby, Not A New Person.
College is the time to discover new passions and meet people who may inspire you for years to come, but while dabbling in a little romance may sound nice and comforting, it could cause more stress than good feeling. Stay away from toxic relationships and try to keep dating to a minimum, especially if you are still new to recovery and are struggling to balance a work-life balance as a single person.
Instead, pick up a hobby and test out club activities at your university. College allows young people to discover themselves by letting them try things they wouldn’t normally have access to. Join the school’s television crew, learn a cultural dance, test your skills in robotics, or volunteer your service to the community. Fall in love with the person you’re becoming.
Meditate And Keep A Positive Mantra To Help You Stay Calm.
Set a couple of minutes every day to practice mindfulness or meditation. Focus on the here and now, rather than past regrets or anxieties about what the future will bring. Meditation is a great way to manage stress in college because it requires minimal resources except your mind, time, and patience.
Try to focus on your senses and let the tension flow out of you as you shift your awareness throughout your body. If your thoughts begin to race, repeat a positive mantra of your choice in your head or out loud to help you keep motivated. Remember to stay sober, not stressed.
Take A Break And Go Outside To Appreciate The World.
Sometimes the best way to manage stress in college and recovery is to just take a break and change your surroundings for a bit, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Go outside on a clear sky day or stroll the city with an umbrella in the rain. Listen to your favorite music and take some time to reflect on the world you live in.
Taking a break may not literally put a pause on your life, but it can stop the racing thoughts from getting ahead of you. The key to managing stress in college and recovery is to build an appreciation for the smaller things in life. Do a little people watching in a park bench, drink fresh brewed coffee at a local coffeehouse, or discover something in your neighborhood that you never noticed before. Life is full of little moments of joy. Give yourself time to experience them.
Need Addiction Treatment? Call Delphi Now
Going to college is already a stressful experience, let alone doing it while trying to stay sober. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction as result of coping with this major life change, it may be time to consider getting drug and alcohol treatment. Don’t let an overdose be the point of lessons learned.
Delphi Behavioral Health Group has several addiction treatment facilities across the country. Feel free to call our 24-hour helpline and talk with one of our addiction specialists to learn more about drug treatment options, our residential rehab facilities, and how to afford addiction treatment. Start your recovery today.