College is not only the best way to get the credentials you need to get ahead in life, it’s also practice for when you have to deal with all the stress of being a contributing member of society. Being pressured to get good grades can be the least of your worries. You also have to deal with the stress of living alone, struggling with limited finances and getting along with others.
Some students take every opportunity presented in college to practice for real life situations, including stressful ones that could make them doubt themselves. You see the formerly shy kids trying their hand at leadership positions. Kids that have been sheltered all their life are joining outreach organizations. The right kind of stress can bring out the best in anyone, and many students thrive in a frantic environment that pushes them to their limits mentally and emotionally.
Challenging one’s self is the best way to develop skills, despite the stress these challenges could cause. The others try different methods to cope with all the stress, inadvertently stumbling on solutions that they can apply when they get out of college and start applying everything they’ve learned.
One solution is changing the way you perceive stress. Instead of whining and letting all the stress get to you, see the source of stress as an exciting challenge meant for you to conquer. Eustress is the term coined by endocrinologist Han Selye, and this kind of biological stress is said to encourage a person to excel rather than be the cause for the person’s failure.
Further studies on this topic, such as that conducted by Le Fevre et al, indicate that this kind of beneficial stress can be any difficult thing that a person needs to overcome, but perceived in a way that wouldn’t hamper the person from doing something great. Simply put, stress can become your main motivational tool if you see it as something that can bring out your sharpest ideas, your ambitions, your strength of character and your passion as a person.
While stress can be beneficial, you shouldn’t go around creating pressure in your daily life in college. For instance, never procrastinate, even if you think you can take care of everything at the last minute by foregoing sleep or not taking lunch breaks. You’ll end up tense, and probably come up with mediocre work that no one will appreciate. You have a lot to deal with already, such as time constraints and unreasonably long reading assignments from professors. You don’t need to add to it by being irresponsible. The point is to be ready and prepared for the unexpected, but don’t invite trouble.
If you have enough time to spare or you’re constantly bored because you’ve been doing your homework religiously and would likely ace your next exams, maybe another challenge is in order. Try out for a sports team, or offer tutoring services. You can also try volunteering for non-government organizations that help teens get over hardships and addictions. There are more than a few ways to challenge yourself, bring on the pressure that helps you excel, and do things that would look awesome on your resume.
Le Fevre M, Kolt GS, Matheny J. Eustress, distress and their interpretation in primary and secondary occupational stress management interventions which way first Journal of Managerial Psychology.2006;21(6) 547–65
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