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Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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Adult Student

HOW TO MANAGE COLLEGE STRESS AS AN ADULT LEARNER

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Adulthood is stressful enough. Add the challenges of going to college as an adult, and it’s understandable if your stress levels are through the roof. You’re not alone, especially if you live in Mississippi. Did you know it’s now the “most stressed state” in the nation?

A lot is weighing on the hardworking residents of this state. Jobs and money are two big ones, so Complete 2 Compete (C2C) works hard to help adult learners finish their degrees.

Many of our adult learners have forgotten how stressful college life can be. Stress is common for college students, and having an adult life to manage at the same time is even more challenging. But don’t worry — you can learn how to manage college stress as an adult learner, and C2C is here to help.

Stress 101: Why It Hurts

Stress is what happens to your body when something challenging happens. There are two basic types. One is acute stress, the kind that comes and goes quickly. 

Acute stress usually happens in response to a specific event. The event can be something big, such as a car accident, or something smaller, such as a midterm exam. When these events happen, we experience the familiar physical and mental symptoms of stress: headaches, stomach problems, fast heartbeat, trouble sleeping, and more.

The body can handle small amounts of stress. When it becomes too much, though, our system can’t get rid of it fast enough. We feel chronically stressed and can’t seem to get rid of the worry.

Chronic stress affects the whole body and may cause physical and mental health issues, including depression, heart disease, and digestive problems. It’s a major problem for adult students with busy schedules. 

Learning how to manage college stress is how you reduce your risk. Here are some techniques to get you started.

Manage Your Time and Attention

There’s an old saying — “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Plan to succeed instead by writing out your schedule for work, school, and everything else you need to do.

If you’re a multitasker, sharpen your focus by planning for one task at a time. It’s tempting to juggle multiple tasks, particularly when you’re an adult student with piles of responsibility, but it doesn’t work. 

The human brain can’t handle multitasking. We make more mistakes when we try, and everything takes longer. Make your life easier and improve your academic performance by doing one thing at a time, whether writing your English paper or making dinner for the kids. 

Take Care of Yourself

Of course, even when you slow down and learn to “monotask,” stress still creeps in. It’s just part of adult life, especially for returning students in college. 

Stress comes, but you don’t have to let it stay. Here are some stress management tips to help you handle whatever comes your way.

Be Mindful and Relax

Learning how to manage college stress is like any other skill: you have to train your brain and body to do it. One way is with mindfulness, which focuses your attention on the present moment.

You can practice mindfulness anywhere — doing the dishes, folding laundry, or taking the dog for a walk. The only requirement is to focus exclusively on the moment and what you can see, hear, feel, and notice. One study found that after practicing mindfulness for six weeks, 73% of adults did better at work and felt less stress.

Another effective relaxation technique is visualization. With visualization, you picture yourself doing something successfully. It relieves your worry and can help you succeed.

And don’t forget about basic relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, meditation, or a soothing bath. If it eases the worry, it’s worth the time.

Eat Well and Exercise

Here’s another old saying — “You are what you eat.” If you manage stressful times by chugging coffee and bingeing on carbs, the sugar and caffeine are more likely to spike your blood sugar and worsen your stress.

Be kind to yourself and make a healthy diet part of your daily life. Include lean protein and high-fiber foods, such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

Regular exercise matters, too. Physical activity reduces tense feelings, lifts your mood, and improves your memory. It even helps you sleep. Experts say adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night.

Find Your People

Students with strong social support feel less academic stress. If you’re lucky enough to connect with a student in one of your classes, strike up a conversation. Invite them to study or schedule social activities. If you both have partners or families, bring them along.

Don’t see anyone over 21 in class? Many C2C colleges and universities have adult learner organizations that will help you meet others like you.

Celebrate Academic Achievement

Even something that feels small, such as turning in a paper on time or passing a test, is a big deal when you work hard for it. Set realistic goals and do something special for yourself when you achieve them. 

Reward yourself in little ways for the smaller milestones and plan bigger celebrations for the big wins.

Communicate With Your Professors 

Your professors want you to succeed, but they need to know how to help. Let them know if you have something that might get in your way, like a sick child or a busy time at work. Many instructors will be flexible with deadlines if they know in advance.

Also, today’s colleges have accommodations for people with learning challenges. If you’re a C2C student, your coach can help you figure out how to get accommodations, such as extra time on tests or assignment extensions.

How the C2C Program Supports You Every Step of the Way

At C2C, we’re committed to helping adults finish their degrees. We understand the challenges of balancing school with work, family, and everything else adults have to juggle. 

C2C helps you with everything college-related, from scholarships to study skills. Your dedicated C2C Coach is there to guide you and answer any question you have, including how to manage college stress.

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C2C is a state program that helps Mississippi adults who previously attended college earn a degree and create a brighter future.