3 Ways to Create Healthy Relationships and Reduce Stress This Semester

A light rain falls in front of Siceluff Hall at Missouri State University in August 2018.

The new semester is underway for many college students, and many who are new to college or who tend to leave assignments and studying to the last minute may be feeling stressed already about the busy weeks to come. As a recent college grad who spent five years taking both online and seated classes, I acquired many tips and tricks to help me get through each semester as smoothly as possible. One of the biggest components to reducing stress and finding success in college concerns your working relationships with classmates and professors. Here are just a few tips to get you started on the right track this semester and connect better with others.

1. Get to know your professors.

Having a good working relationship with your professor is essential to controlling your level of stress and having a firm grasp on your workload. Meet with your professors early this semester to talk about their expectations for the class, to ask questions about the course material and upcoming assignments, and to simply chat and let them know with what assignment-related issues you tend to struggle.

Over my five years in college, I met with my professors regularly and quickly learned that meeting with them early helped me make a positive impression on them. Meeting with them to ask questions and inform them of my major and intellectual interests helped open a dialogue that would continue throughout the semester. Because I initiated and continued an open dialogue with my professors, they knew I was serious about doing well in class and was open to suggestions and advice from them in order to meet (and sometimes exceed) their expectations. Meeting with your professors will also help you gain an understanding of how well they think you’re doing in the class and in which areas you may need to improve.

2. Be open to other listening to other viewpoints, but don’t be afraid to explain your own.

You’ll hear a lot of different ideas and points of view in college—something for which I was not quite prepared when I entered college in 2015. I knew what I believed (an essential component to maintaining your Christian lifestyle while in college), but I didn’t realize how open others would be with viewpoints that directly opposed and challenged my own beliefs. There were many (many) times during class discussions that my classmates would discuss (and argue) about atheism, their perceptions of Christianity, capitalism, and other issues regarding history, race, and identity.

Now, I’m quite the polite introvert during public discussion and rarely engage in debate, but there were a few times when I (being the only Apostolic conservative in the room) took it upon myself to explain (and sometimes defend) a religious ideal or conservative principle that another student had difficulty understanding. Instead of berating the student or becoming engulfed in my emotions about the topic, I carefully worded my response and maintained a calm composure, often asking a follow-up question to the confused or frustrated student. What I learned was that a friendly and thoughtful response and dialogue with students of other backgrounds and belief systems often calmed tension in the room and helped the class further our discussion without arguments breaking out.

3. Pray before class each day.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but praying before class each day, whether it’s in your car or walking onto the campus, is essential for maintaining focus on God and giving Him control over your day. When I started college, I attended a smaller community college in my hometown and had classes as early as seven in the morning. There were many moments when I’d arrive on campus at half past six, and as I watched the sun rise, I’d pray over the day. They were often simple prayers, but I noticed that when I failed to do so (due to getting around and arriving late), my days were out of focus. Stress about upcoming assignments and my busy to-do list cluttered my mind and soured my mood as I shuffled from class to class. Praying over your day, your coursework, and your classmates ensures that you start your day with Jesus and surrender control over your work and relationships with others to Him.

If you apply the above tips to your lifestyle while in college, you will not only form meaningful connections with others, but you will also develop stress-reducing habits that will help you move forward with confidence during college and into the adult world.

Happy spring semester to all the students out there! If you know someone already struggling with school-related stress, share this post with them to give them encouragement and motivation.

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