College Students Get Candid About Stress, Burnout and Self-Care

Thrive asked college students from around the country to share their best strategies for handling what’s on their plates.

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Thrive Global: Tell us about your stress levels and how you deal with stress.

“I am rarely stressed, but when I do get stressed it’s because I feel out of control. I make sure to take deep breaths and think about what’s within my control and what’s not. I also like to take a step back and think about whether my stress is related to something that truly deserves this amount of energy.”
– Hanna Laikin, University of Southern California, 22

“I can get very stressed out because I have to balance so much. Whenever I start to feel really overwhelmed, I read a positive poetry book. The words put things back into perspective and remind me of what’s important.”
– Shannon Behrens, SUNY Purchase College, 21

Thrive Global: What’s your relationship with your phone like? Does it sleep with you?

“I usually have my phone with me, but sometimes if I’m going to run errands, home with my parents or taking my dog on a hike I leave it at home. I also always have my phone on Do Not Disturb because I like getting to choose when I check my phone. I don’t like my phone beeping telling me when to look at it.”
– Eliza Levy, Tulane University, 18

Thrive Global: What’s your best productivity strategy?

“Taking intentional breaks! By planning out breaks in regular intervals, I know I have something to look forward to and am less distracted. And by making sure my breaks are intentionally fun and relaxing, like going for a walk instead of mindlessly checking Facebook, I actually feel recharged when I go back to work.”
– Hannah Busis, Muhlenberg College, 21

“Getting things done as early as I can, because the future is uncertain and I like to have a time buffer for unexpected things.”
– Matt Ohlson, University of Virginia, 20

Thrive Global: When’s that last time you felt burned out and how did you bounce back?

“I burned out during high school and was overexerting myself mentally and emotionally to the point that I only recovered once I left. After feeling the first effects of burnout during junior year and only feeling the last of them in my last semester of senior year, I took the following summer and first year of college to refocus, rebuild, and rededicate myself. I refocused on the things that are truly meaningful in my life and cut out the unnecessary stressors I had saddled myself with, thinking I needed them. I rebuilt my confidence in myself, both academically and personally. I rededicated myself to the goals I truly wanted to pursue; instead of listening to other voices that suggested I change my career goal or give up on my academic dreams. I dove deeper into my goals and dreams and I’m now determined to realize them and make them real.”
– Annabelle Winter, SUNY Purchase College/Boston University, 19

Thrive Global: How do you practice self-care?

“I try to practice gratitude every day and constantly surround myself with people I love.”
– Lucie Fleming, Stanford University, 22

“I make sure I get a full 8 hours of sleep every night, drink lots of water and try to be active every day of the week.”
– Emily Perelman, University of Pennsylvania, 22

Thrive Global: How do you balance academics, friends and extracurriculars?

“I separate everything in my mind—it all gains a time and place. I can give the thing I’m working on my all and then shift quickly.”
– Darryl Filmore, Colorado College, 18

“By checking my FOMO as often as possible and being real with myself about when I’ll be sad I missed something vs when I’m actually missing things.”
– Adina Goldstein, University of Pennsylvania/Harvard University, 22

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