Young adults going off to college are particularly vulnerable to stress and anxiety.

College students must handle a big life change, more homework and tests than ever before, brand-new social situations, living away from home for perhaps the first time, and—on top of all that—navigating a new city, a new state, or maybe even a new country.

It’s a huge amount to take on without the usual parental guidance, but here are some methods college students can use to manage their stress and stay healthy.

Get at least seven hours of sleep a night—yes, really

The first thing that goes out the window when college students get bogged down with work and social lives is sleep. It can seem attractive and productive to stay up until 2 a.m. and then wake up at 7 for an 8 a.m. class, but this kind of sleep deprivation takes a toll—and fast.

Short-term effects of lack of sleep include trouble concentrating, difficulty making good decisions, headaches, and general malaise.

It’s no laughing matter to skimp on sleep, so college students must try to budget time to ensure a full night’s sleep.

Eat right—even in the dining hall

It can be hard to manage healthy eating habits in a dining hall, especially for college students who are accustomed to having every meal made for them by a parent.

But making healthy and sensible food choices can mean the difference between a stressed-out, unhappy student and a calm, focused, successful student.

College students need to learn about how to fuel their bodies before they go off to college; it’s a steep learning curve, and it can be difficult when confronted with unhealthy, unlimited choices in the dining hall. Education at home is key.

Get moving—outside, on the field, or at the gym

Like eating well and sleeping enough, it may seem that there’s not enough time to spend 30 minutes a day at the gym or jogging on the track, but if exercise is neglected, a student may have a hard time handling stress and schoolwork.

Exercise helps us focus, sleep better, and perform better in all aspects of our lives. And if students don’t want to lift weights or run on a treadmill alone, they can join an intramural sports team.

There’s no wrong choice when it comes to exercise; even just a daily 30-minute walk can make a huge difference to a student’s stress level.

Find a support system—and nurture it

Friends and supportive classmates are the last vital component of stress management in college. Loneliness and social isolation are extremely stressful, and it can be intimidating to meet new people when everything else is new.

But college students need to take advantage of the social opportunities their college provides and dive right in. It might take some time to find a good group of friends; those people may become lifelong friends—and that’s something worth nurturing.

The bottom line

Managing stress at college may seem like a daunting prospect, but with a few intentional tweaks to the typical college life, a student can prosper and be healthy.

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