11 Things To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed In College

How To Deal With Stress In College

Is it bad that I’ve only had three weeks of classes and I already want the semester to be over? No? Okay, good. Don’t get me wrong, I do love most of my classes and I feel like they’ll only get better and better, but I wish that were true of the amount of work I have to do! I definitely feel like I’m always doing homework, no matter how much of it I complete; when I finish one class assignment, I have to start preparing for the next. Ya know what I mean???? And if you have a packed schedule, it feels way crazier!

I’m very good at managing multiple tasks and I don’t get stressed often at all, but this week it really hit me hard and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset about it. If you’re in the same boat as me, here’s how I started dealing with this stressful week and how I will continue to manage it.

1. Keep track of your assignments and obligations.

I know, doing more work is the last thing you want to do at this point, but at least knowing exactly what you have to do will help you stress less because you won’t have to rip your hair our trying to remember what assignment you had to do for Chem lab, or when your English paper is due. My post on how to get organized in college has more snazzy organization tips.

2. Break up your obligations into manageable bits.

Don’t try to complete assignments for five classes in one night! Knowing your limit can really help you pay attention to your own needs as a human being because, believe it or not, you still need to eat and sleep. If you know that you get tired by midnight and can’t focus anymore, aim to complete assignments for just two classes that day and you can plan to do the others on other days. Also, if you know that one particular assignment is very big and you doubt you’ll be able to finish it in one sitting, plan ahead to break it into chunks so that, first of all, you don’t procrastinate the assignment, and second, it feels more manageable.

3. Reconsider your schedule.

I’m not saying you should drop every single class that requires you to put in a little more effort than you expected, but if there’s a class that’s giving you absolute hell, or you feel like the number of credits you’re taking is a bit too much for you at the moment, drop it. I can be really stubborn when it comes to this because I used to think that just powering through it — no matter how stressful it might get — is better than quitting. Boy was I wrong! There’s no shame in needing to drop something from your schedule! This is something I learned during the first two weeks of class last spring. For the record, I absolutely do not regret dropping the class I dropped! Good riddance!

4. Give yourself a break.

Like, actually take a night off to just chill and do something you want to do. If you feel like you need an hour or two of “Gossip Girl” treat yourself to it! If you just feel like taking a nap, more power to ya. I hate forcing myself to do work when it feels like my brain is turning to mush! Besides, I’m unable to retain what I’m studying if I can’t get my brain to focus. Even if you aren’t tired, it’s still important to take a *short* vacation from the books and just hang out with friends, chill by yourself, or do something fun.

5. Cut out any social drama. 

Seriously, this is the last thing you should be worrying about when you’re already stressed. Being mad at your friend or having one of your friends be mad at you can honestly really hit you hard; I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t feel even a little upset if a good friend of mine was angry with me for something. You don’t need to have this take over your mind, so to try to avoid drama, misunderstandings, and all that other annoying stuff, be straightforward and honest with your friends about everything — if someone does something you don’t like, tell them politely! Don’t talk crap behind their back because they’ll likely find out and it’ll cause so much unwanted crap!

6. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. 

If you’re like me, then you probably love getting involved in pretty much everything going on and you tell yourself, “yeah, you got this, you can take this.” Stop doing that. You’ve likely got enough on your plate as it is, and adding more obligations to that smorgasbord won’t help you feel less overwhelmed! There are definitely some things that I would have loved to do this semester, but I know that if I add anymore obligations to my schedule I basically won’t sleep. Like, at all. We can’t be the president of every club we like, and we can’t grab every part-time job we’re able to swing.

7. Drop whatever doesn’t work for you anymore. 

This might be what you have to do if you somehow managed to fill your plate a little too much. If there’s an obligation that demands too much from you and doesn’t give you even half the return you expect after putting in so much work, then maybe it’s time to let it go. There are some things that are definitely worth the blood, sweat, and tears (even if there are lots and lots of tears) but use your discretion to figure out what just isn’t, especially if it’s the thing that’s causing you to feel the most overwhelmed. I know that just dropping something sounds even a little selfish but you shouldn’t have any qualms about looking out for your personal health!

8. Do some work in the company of friends. 

Friends who struggle together stay together, after all. That was totally a joke (kind of). But I find that when I’m literally losing my sh*t I tend to feel better if I at least do it in the company of others. Ranting to your besties about how much work you have to do feels really good, and in return you get to hear them rant about all the work they have to do and that kind of reminds you that you’re all in the same boat together. But it’s cool because you’ll get through it together, too. Seriously, just talking to a friend about how you feel can make a difference. Likewise, if you feel that speaking to a therapist will help, don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment.

9. Exercise. 

That doesn’t mean you have to go hardcore at the gym and run six miles to sweat out all your tension; doing less strenuous activities can also be very alleviating so don’t forget about those! Simply taking a walk around the track while you listen to music can help you unwind. If your campus gym offers free fitness classes, definitely take advantage of those, too!

10. Take a nap.

I never nap. Ever. But if I feel like I have the weight of 30 textbooks on me, then a nap sounds pretty damn good (I’ll probably take a quick one after I’m done with this post!). Naps are very refreshing and I feel like when I wake up again my mind is a lot more clear and I have a little more energy to complete any tasks that need to get done. But also don’t force yourself to take a nap if you aren’t actually that tired because you’ll likely just end up laying in bed playing with your phone for three hours instead.

11. Appreciate the little things in life. 

I always enjoy getting to play music in the morning while I brush my teeth and shower. I love putting on lively, happy music so that I start my day the very same way. It’s small and sounds cheesy but it makes me look forward to the rest of my day, and even makes me feel like I can just fly through everything and basically be a badass. My post on how to make your mornings more exciting has more suggestions on small things you can do.

I hope you found this post really useful and if you are feeling very overwhelmed right now, I hope you’ll consider trying out one of these tips! Of course, everyone’s different and what may work for me may not work for you and vice versa.

What are your tips for managing stress in college? 

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  • Shaina McGregor

    Right! Its only been 3 weeks, and it feels like so much longer. I agree keeping organized is key! In college I must have a planner to keep up to date on all of my assignment. I also recently wrote a post about How to Maintain Sanity as a College Student, and I included some similar tips. I never get the chance to take naps anymore, but in general I recommended more sleep! We just don’t get enough sleep, and it really affects our performance and retention. But yes the little things! I love when I wake up in the mornings and I actually feel refreshed and the sun is shining into my room and I am sipping a cup of coffee before my morning routine. It’s small, but refreshing.

    • Absolutely! I can’t operate on limited sleep so I don’t even try to push my luck! So many people would much rather stay up late to get assignments done rather than sleep early and wake up early to do the work when they actually feel refreshed. That sounds so delightful! I adore being able to just take my time in the morning before I leave for class, that definitely makes me really happy! Thank you for reading!

  • Katrina Honer

    I’ve graduated already but naps are what saved me and still do! Hope you’re feel less stressed now. Love your blog! If you are looking for more tips for life in college or actually life after pst grad, reach out and I’d love to connect 🙂


    • Absolutely, I feel a lot better now, thanks! =) Awwwwww thanks that means so much to me, and I’ll definitely be checking out your blog because I’ll be graduating in two years!!!!! Thanks for reading!

  • When I saw you had written a post about overwhelm I got really scared because I actually have a post on the same thing sitting in my scheduled box for this Sunday. But then I read your’s and we only overlap over two things, so whew! I hadn’t even thought about most of what you had written about! One of my favorite things to do is spend time outside when I’m felling overwhelmed.

    Caitlyn | http://www.collegewithcaitlyn.com

    • OMG that’s so funny!!!!! I can’t wait to read your post! It’s so interesting to see where different people come from and how they think so I really can’t wait to read your thoughts on the subject. Wow, I’m actually the opposite — I love going to my favorite indoor study spot because the vibe is so chill and cozy and I can order my favorite iced coffee while I work! Thanks for reading! =)