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Navigating College: 3 tips to Manage Stress from a Therapist

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Navigating college stress from a therapist
College life

With the fall semester underway, we want to give a shoutout to our college students. Whether you are a new freshman or a graduating senior, we know that you are busy and trying to maintain a continuous juggling act. College students often experience stress, with this topic just featured in a recent article by US News & World Report. At Think Happy Live Healthy our therapists receive referrals from students about a variety of stressors, such as challenges with adjusting to college, navigating difficult relationships, support after experiencing a trauma, wanting help with managing schoolwork and other activities, and guidance on making important decisions.

If you were to stop and think for a second, how would you describe your year to be going so far? If feelings of stress or being overwhelmed come to mind, these three strategies can help you to feel more at ease:

  1. First, find a way to calm your body: Ways to do this can include engaging in mindful meditation, going on a walk, doing progressive muscle relaxation, or taking deep breaths while listening to music. When your body gets rid of tension this can lead to you being able to think more clearly and tackle the task at hand.

2. Break down large tasks into small concrete steps: Studying for exams, writing papers, and preparing for presentations are all large academic tasks that you are asked to complete and can be quite stressful. You may be tempted to procrastinate on these assignments because you are not sure where to begin. While you cannot change the fact that you have been assigned this work, you do have control over what approach you take for completing it. Breaking down large tasks or “chunking” them into smaller steps can help the assignments to feel more manageable. Working through the smaller steps will help you gain momentum and feel accomplished which in turn can lead to increased motivation to continue working.

3. Be curious about your daily routine: Do a self-check with how you are taking care of yourself. When managing a busy schedule, it can be easy to let basic needs, such as eating well, getting adequate sleep, and exercising regularly, to fall by the wayside. Keeping up with these healthy habits can have a positive impact on your mood and increase productivity. Do not feel like you need to make big changes all at once. Start small and celebrate “wins” (i.e. choosing to go for a run instead of watching another show, going to bed 30 minutes earlier than the night before, or eating a snack that fills you up instead of grabbing that energy drink). These habits will build on one another and reinforce each other, and with sustained effort, you will begin to see progress.

If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or just having this perception of being “stuck,” and are noticing these feelings to be impacting the quality of your life, this can be a sign that you may want to seek additional support from a therapist. You likely have heard that it is important to focus on your mental health, however, you may be telling yourself that you are too busy, stressed, or apprehensive to start therapy. Prioritizing mental health can seem like a daunting task, and as licensed mental health professionals, we are here to share that we see you. Our approach is that if your concern is important to you, then it is important to us.

Here are some things to know about our therapy practice. As long as you are a student who attends a college or university in Virginia, you are able to be seen for therapy either in-person at our Falls Church or Ashburn office locations, or via teletherapy, where you can participate virtually. Depending on your class schedule, you may have a preference for daytime or evening sessions and we will work to accommodate your availability. To learn more about Think Happy Live Healthy, please visit our website:

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