As we round the corner into December, you’ll probably see more and more of your students “stressing out.” Many may suffer from test anxiety, while others may be struggling with priorities or time management issues. Still others may simply feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they need to accomplish in the remaining weeks of the term.

In Student Success in College: Doing What Works!: A Research-Focused Approach, Dr. Christine Harrington offers students a variety of strategies that will help them conquer the stress that they’re experiencing. Even though they’re fairly simple steps, they can serve as a reminder of the behaviors that help lighten the load and promote well-being—because, as Harrington notes, “We need to find ways to keep the basics working for us, especially when we need them the most” (138).


  • Eat healthily. Don’t miss out on regular meals. In addition, keeping nutritious snacks on hand can help you feel less tempted by those potato chips or candy bars in the vending machine or student center.
  • Exercise. Take advantage of the resources on campus! If you have a gym or fitness center, consider fitting a thirty-minute workout into your day, three to five times a week. Even something as simple as taking the longer path to class can help you fit in some added physical activity.
  • Get adequate rest. It can be tempting to shave hours off your sleep in the name of extra studying—but you may ultimately pay the price in poorer moods or a lowered ability to focus. (Better to engage in time-management techniques that help you resist procrastination and get your studying done.) Find it difficult to get to sleep? Before bed, take some time to wind down with a relaxing activity, like reading or listening to mellow music.
  • Take a deep breath. Inhale slowly; then, exhale slowly. Focus on your breathing as you go.
  • Relax your muscles. Here’s a technique that Harrington recommends:

Eliminate distractions before you begin this exercise. Start by taking slow, deep breaths. Next, try tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. For example, clench your hand to make a fist. Hold it in the tensed position for ten seconds and then slowly release it. Repeat this two or three times before moving on to the next muscle. (139)

  • Maintain a positive attitude. Challenge your negative thinking and keep your mind focused on productive thoughts. Focusing on negativity can increase your stress—and those negative events you fear may never come to pass, in any case!
  • Talk about your concerns. Share your worries with a trusted friend, significant other, or family member; and consider seeing a mental-health professional if you need additional assistance in dealing the issues you’re facing. (Most college campuses offer low-cost or no-cost counseling and advising services.) If the stress is related to school and studies, visit your college’s academic tutoring center for study help. But do not vent through social media; you may find that your words travel much further than you wished… and may result in added stress that you hadn’t counted on. (137-140)

Want to provide your students with additional stress-management tips? Direct them to CengageBrainiac, the blog, where they’ll find study tips that reduce stress as well as additional strategies for managing stress before final exams.


Reference: Harrington, Christine. 2013. Student Success in College: Doing What Works! A Research-Focused Approach. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


What stress-management techniques do you share with students? Write them in the comments section.