Academic Stress

One common aspect of college that can be very stressful for many students is their academics. There are many factors that can get in the way of succeeding academically, including:

  • Balancing school with work
  • Family pressures
  • Learning to study in an environment that is less structured than high school
  • Difficult classes and/or programs
  • Issues arising in your personal life
  • Stresses associated with distance learning

In general, it is important to just remember that college can be very difficult and the academics can be very stressful. It is not just you that is struggling, but it may not be obvious just walking around campus.


Do you have time to participate in any activities that might lower your stress levels? If you do, it may be helpful to exercise, talk with your friends, or any other activity that might help you. If not, you may think about seeing what stress reducing activities you can try.

College can be stressful and any healthy activities that you can participate in to reduce the stress is usually a good thing. Click here to learn more about coping skills in more depth.

Using deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help with feeling stress. In general, when we begin to experience the emotion of stress, our body begins to react physiologically. Using deep breathing can help us calm down and feel more relaxed. Deep breathing can be particularly helpful for those that feel as if they do not have enough time to participate in other activities.

This can be done through the use of apps, biofeedback equipment, or other means. To learn more, please look at our deep breathing section. If you are interested in learning more about biofeedback specifically, please go to our biofeedback page.

One issue that can arise when we are feeling academic stress is that the amount of work can feel overwhelming. Here are some ways to do this.

If there is a large task, break it into smaller tasks. 
If you have a 6 page research paper due in three weeks, start by breaking down the assignment into smaller parts. For example, days 1-4 you just research. Then you complete the introduction paragraph. This may be followed by a goal of completing the first page. You may then come up with other small goals, such as finishing one paragraph at a time, one page at a time, or any amount you like. 

For big assignments, you can start with the more manageable parts. 
You may go out of order on the assignment in the example above, but you may think that pages 3-5 of the paper are actually the easiest for you to write. Start there!

If you have a lot of schoolwork coming up, focus on the more manageable parts first. 
For example, sort by each assignment, then break each assignment into smaller, more manageable pieces. While this might not change the amount of work you have, it may make it feel easier. You may also find it helpful to start with easier assignments and build your way up to more difficult ones.


See if you can do at least one of them each day.
Start with one minute, then aim to do 7 minutes each time.
Even if you do not do this strategy for this assignment, it is helpful to practice breaking down assignments so you are ready when you feel overwhelmed.


  • If you are curious if your academic stress may be related to anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, you may find it helpful to take one of our 8 mental health screening tools.