Tips to help manage stress and anxiety in college

Being prepared for a tougher workload can help reduce stress, said Lata K. McGinn of Cognitive Behavioral Consultants.
Being prepared for a tougher workload can help reduce stress, said Lata K. McGinn of Cognitive Behavioral Consultants. Photo Credit: Liz Ligon

For students attending college in the fall, it can be an exciting and stressful time.

Stress and anxiety are the leading factors that affect academic performance, the spring 2016 National College Health Assessment found: 55 percent of students responded that stress and anxiety negatively affected their academic performance within the past year — up from 51.9 percent the previous year. Additionally, 43.3 percent reported feeling more than average stress — up from 42.8 percent.

“The pressures have certainly increased for kids,” said Lata K. McGinn, co-founder of Cognitive Behavioral Consultants (CBC), a group of mental health professionals in Manhattan and Westchester. “Just the time alone in terms of academic workload and extracurricular activities creates a lot more stress for these kids.”

For the second year in a row, CBC has been holding summer camps that help students develop social and academic skills that can help manage stress and anxiety, from confidence-building to time management.

McGinn shares tips for students making the transition.

Know you’re not alone

“First and foremost is understanding that everyone’s in the same boat,” McGinn said. “You’re not the only person struggling in this big new world; you’re not alone.”

Accept your stress

Acknowledging that you feel anxious or stressed, and not avoiding or feeling guilty about it, is key. “You don’t want to start doing unhelpful things to avoid how you feel, like doing drugs or avoiding situations that make you feel anxious,” McGinn said. “Accepting how you’re feeling nonjudgmentally is really important.”

Be ready for the challenge

“It’s sort of abstract — yes, college will be difficult,” McGinn said. “The more you find out and know, it helps you stay on top of your work.” That could mean going to orientation, keeping track of exams and planning study sessions, she said.

Focus on weaker subjects

Counteract the summer “brain drain” before college starts. “Getting a tutor or doing an academic camp might help you with things you’re weaker at,” McGinn recommended.

Seek help as needed

From OCD to panic disorders to depression, “a lot of things are emerging” during adolescence, McGinn said. “Knowing when it’s time to get help is obviously important.” Students who are having trouble managing their emotions should go to someone they can trust, such as a parent, professor or counselor, McGinn said.