Finesse the stress

Stress expert Kristen Lee Costa, an assistant teaching professor of behavioral sciences in the College of Professional Studies, has taught at every grade level and worked with students in the therapy room, and says she’s seen the devastation that stampeding stress can create.

Assistant teaching professor Kristen Lee Costa (Wingate Photography)

Assistant teaching professor Kristen Lee Costa (Wingate Photography)

Costa, who is also the author of Reset: Make the Most of Your Stress, notes that students can help navigate the every-day stress of college life by avoiding a handful of common pitfalls, which she identifies here and offers advice to overcome based on new research findings from her “Stress and its Management” course.

1) Perfectionism
image of a pencil erasing the word mistakesIf you’re highly motivated and conscientious, you want the ‘A’—often at all costs. This makes it hard to receive feedback and chains you to the endless pursuit to hit it out of the park every time. The key is to shift your mindset. Focus on the learning. The more you learn, the more there is to discover. Do your best, but know that you can learn through mistakes. Sometimes you’re not going to hit a homer, but just get on base.

2)  The imposter syndrome
a man holding a mask over his faceAmong high achievers, two feelings are common—“I don’t belong,” and “Someone is going to find out I’m not as good as they think.” Women are at a higher risk for this, as are first generation and minority students. It’s important to realize that many others feel this way, even if they don’t wear their insecurities on their sleeves. The key is to understand that you do belong, that doubts are likely to increase as you move upward, and that it takes time to gain traction and confidence.

3) Poor time management
clockTime management is your friend. You don’t have to eliminate all procrastination—it’s human—but you need to minimize it whenever possible. Get organized. Make lists, keep a schedule, identify where you can become more efficient. Create structure and routines. These practices will free up time for rest and play—and allow you to do both with a clear mind.

4) Isolation

cartoon speech bubble text reads you are not aloneAlthough college can be enormously exciting, it is filled with pressure at every level. Seek community. Reach out to peers, professors, and colleagues. All institutions have health and counseling departments that offer confidential support. There is power in having a safe place to debrief and strategize. Health insurance covers cost of therapy. You don’t have to be paralyzed by stress to need this. Be proactive.

5) Losing perspective
eye looking at a box - reads 'see the big picture'Education is a privilege. This can be hard to remember when you’re battling deadlines, but it helps to remember that across the globe, education is far from a right. The fact that you have access to learning is a resource to cherish. Education can transform you. It can equip you for change and open doors. Keeping this perspective is vital.