5 Ways To Manage Course Load and Stress In College

If you’re a student, you know that college life can get rather stressful and complicated. These few short years of your undergrad career love to pack in late nights, lots of responsibility, and possibly the most social complexity you’ll ever face.

You might find yourself disenchanted with college life. After all, they promised you a good time and personal freedoms, but you ended up with endless study sessions and a busy schedule. Here’s some good news: It is possible to perform well and have fun in college. The secret is in how you handle your time and stress levels.

Managing your time and minimizing stress is all about finding a method that works well for you. Personality and preferences play a major role in how you organize your life. Remember, the goal isn’t to copy other people’s methods but to use other people’s rhythms as inspiration for your own. With that in mind, below are five ways to manage course load and stress in college.


College is stressful partly because of complex schedules and the sheer amount of options available. Apart from your typical responsibilities like staying on top of coursework, you will find several clubs and organizations worth joining.

If you’re a new college student, you are likely experiencing a phenomenon known as “decision fatigue.” This phenomenon results in you spending valuable energy when forced to make a decision. The more decisions you make throughout the day, the more mental energy you use.

The best way to minimize decision fatigue is to set aside one day per week — usually a Saturday or Sunday — to plan out the following week. The plan you make doesn’t have to include minute-to-minute details; some people prefer a loose schedule with a basic list of responsibilities. That’s fine. Just make sure you have a clear idea of what you need to accomplish each day.


You might have heard the phrase “choose your hard.” People use this phrase to express that while success and failure are both difficult, achieving success is more a matter of choosing the better of two options.

For example, being healthy is hard work. Working out consistently and eating at least semi-nutritious food (on a budget) can be challenging to accomplish. But being tired, unmotivated, and sick all the time is far more burdensome. The discipline required to maintain a healthy life is well worth the sacrifice.

You can make a handful of simple adjustments to your lifestyle and reap a massive reward. For instance, five minutes of intense exercise first thing in the morning is enough to benefit your health. Eating at least one vegetable with each meal will also improve your health. You don’t have to count calories or start an insane workout routine; you just have to value yourself and your health enough to establish some healthy rhythms.


The more you focus on problems, the more stressed you become. If you don’t have hobbies, friends, or fun outlets to fill your time with, your mind will default to the work you have to accomplish. Ideally, outlets should be low-stress and something you enjoy doing regularly.

Try to mix it up with a few social outlets and a few solo outlets. A social outlet could be intermural sports or a weekend party. It could also be a hangout with friends where you try a word scrambler. A personal outlet could include painting, playing music, working out, or any other hobby that brings you joy.

Most people substitute screen time for leisure time. Since the internet requires you to process so much information all at once, it’s not an ideal outlet.


You might not realize that your physical environment can play a massive role in how much stress you experience. A loud, busy, or otherwise demanding environment can slowly jack up your stress level.

You can’t completely avoid stressful environments; life requires us to deal with and manage stress as it comes. However, you can be intentional about creating a peaceful home environment. This is a lot harder with roommates, but it’s still possible. A clean and organized space is a low-stress space. You can also try out soft lighting, music, and things like candles and essential oil diffusers.


While most of this advice relates to creating smart rhythms, it’s important not to get too settled in a routine. Breaking routines can provide a valuable change of perspective; a week or two off from “normal life” can do wonders for your mental wellbeing. And you don’t have to go on vacation to accomplish this change. Simple changes like cooking new recipes, exercising outdoors, or trying anything novel can help break the monotony.

While it’s essential to perform well and get good grades, your time in college isn’t just about success. It’s about having fun, making memories, and preparing yourself for the future. You’ll experience stress. You’ll probably fail multiple times at multiple things. You’ll even experience confusion and the complexity of life. That’s okay. There’s no better time to learn than in the stage of life you’re in.

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