Skip to content

Teen Health

Font Size

5 Ways to Reduce College Stress

We asked a top-level college counselor for tips on staying balanced. The answers may surprise you!
By Linda Formichelli
WebMD Magazine - Feature

In the movies, college is all about ice luges, frat parties, and snoozing in class to recover from it all. You know what? Movies lie.

Sure, there are parties, but most of the time college is more stress than fiesta followed by siesta. And the pressure of homework -- tons of it -- and exams -- lots of them -- can take a toll on your mental and physical health. WebMD asked Alex Lickerman, MD, interim assistant vice president for Student Health and Counseling at the University of Chicago, for some smart tips to keep the stress at bay (or at least at a low ebb) throughout the semester.

Recommended Related to Teens

Your Healthy Weight: Body Mass Index

  With more body types than car models out there, it’s not always obvious what a healthy weight might be. So doctors look at the ratio of your height and weight, then compare it to other people like you to see if you’re in the healthy zone. This system is called the Body Mass Index. It’s an easy calculation where you divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. (OK, it sounds complicated, but it’s easy to do. . If you don’t feel like doing the math, go to and search...

Read the Your Healthy Weight: Body Mass Index article > >

Stop Studying

A marathon study session may seem like a great idea, but you can wear out your willpower and concentration. "Keeping on task is a very energy-expensive process," Lickerman says. "When you use all your energy to keep yourself studying, you can't use that same energy to control your worry or your stress about it." This can lead to freak-outs of major proportions. So when you start feeling fatigued, take a break and do something that replenishes you, such as noshing on a light snack or taking a 10- or 20-minute walk outside, before hitting the books again.

Give Your Mind a Break

Anxiety pops up when your mind is not on the present moment: You're trying to study, but you're worrying about your next exam. Or you're taking the exam while stressing about something your boyfriend said. According to Lickerman, daily meditation for as little as 20 minutes can help you develop your mindfulness muscle. "Meditation seems to have an effect beyond the period when you're meditating," he says. Find a quiet place to sit, close your eyes, and focus on your breath, gently bringing your mind back whenever it wanders.

Make a List

Does it seem like everything's stressing you out? "Sometimes it turns out the entire source of your stress is just one thing, and yet because you're so stressed you feel like you can't do the other things," Lickerman says. The solution? "It's helpful to pinpoint what exactly is making you feel overwhelmed so your worry doesn't bleed into other areas." He suggests compiling a list of everything on your plate. Then rank the tasks by which ones are really bugging you so you can take care of them right away. Crossing things off a list has its own stress-reducing reward.

Today on WebMD

unhappy teen couple
mini cupcakes
teen couple
Teenage Couple standing in a fairground laughing
Sugary drinks
teen wearing toning shoes
young woman texting
teen boy holding a condom
Teen girls eating ice cream
teen sleeping
couple kissing
Taylor Swift