College Stress Relief: Why Standard Advice For Dealing With College Stress Is Outdated

by Doc Orman, M.D.

So far this week, I’ve revisited the following two blog posts about college stress (originally published here in March, 2012):

Today, I’m going to explain why I believe that much (but not all) of the existing advice for coping with college stress is both ineffective and outdated.  I’m also going to remind you how to download my free e-book designed to help college students better understand and deal with stress, both in college and once they graduate.

college stress relief e-book

What Is Standard Advice For Coping With Stress In College?

Most existing advice for coping with college stress centers on the following common types of problems:

  • The stress of choosing and getting into college
  • Freshman stress (adjustment challenges)
  • General academic anxiety and workload
  • Test/Exam anxiety
  • Social stress
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Bullying (including cyber-bullying)
  • Violence (including the fear of violence)

While it is sometimes necessary (and beneficial) for college students to seek out competent mental health professionals or therapists to help them work through any major stress issues they might be having, there is also a great deal of self-help advice for dealing with college stress available as well.

Examples of such self-help advice include:

  • Create a quiet work-space where you can concentrate without distractions.
  • Create a system to keep organized (note taking, assignments, exam dates).
  • Try to manage your time well (study times, break times, social time).
  • Learn to practice relaxation and other stress management techniques.
  • Learn to use visualization and mental imagery.
  • Be vigilant about making sure you get enough sleep.
  • Don’t overuse alcohol, illegal drugs, food or other chemicals to cope.
  • Keep junk foods to a limit and try to eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Learn effective study skills and develop good study habits.
  • Think optimistically and maintain a positive attitude.

Sound familiar?  This is pretty much the same type of standard advice you’ve probably received, ad-nausea, to cope with your own stress, both during and after college.

Why Is Most Of This Advice Outdated?

While most of the existing self-help advice about stress makes sense, and while it would certainly help if faithfully followed, it usually doesn’t go far enough.  It’s mostly directed at controlling the student’s external environment, minimizing external stressors, improving diet, exercising and using relaxation techniques.

It doesn’t really get at the heart of why the individual is experiencing stress in the first place. It doesn’t help students to better understand, appreciate, and do battle with their internal causes of stress.  Sure external factors, such as having noisy or inconsiderate roommates, being bullied or being made fun of by others, and not being well-organized clearly play a role.  But why do some students deal very well with noisy roommates, while others give up and decompensate?  And why do some students deal with bullying better than others, and if you’re not very well-organized, then what’s going on within you that’s keeping you from manifesting these very useful skills?

You see, it’s the internal factors that are most important to address, because these are the ones we all have much more control over.  And self-help advice about dealing with the internal causes of college stress (and stress in general) is either non-existent, or it approaches these causes in ways that are outdated and largely ineffective.

NOTE: I’m not saying that internal causes of stress are never addressed in self-help resources.  Rather, I am simply pointing out that this information needs to be presented in more empowering ways, and it also needs to become much more widespread.

What Type Of Advice Would Be Better?

I believe that we need to completely revise the way we’ve been teaching young people to think about and deal with stress.  We need to critically examine our “common sense” notions about what stress really is, what causes it to occur for human beings, and what our best coping options are for dealing with it.

If you’ve been following this stress relief blog for very long, you already know this is a theme I keep repeating.  This is also why I wrote College Stress Relief: What Every Student Should Know (And Spread Around) ASAP! and made it available to all college students for free, instead of charging money for it.

If you want to know my thoughts on what we should be teaching students about stress in college, then all you have to do is check out this free, downloadable e-book.  If you’ve already taken advantage of my previously offers to download and read my four free introductory PDF stress mastery training e-books, you’ll see that I incorporated much of this same information in the e-book I produced for college students. 

How Will College Students Benefit From This New E-book? 

Once again, the purpose of this College Stress Relief e-book is to open up new conversations about how to think about and deal with stress on college campuses all across America and around the world.  The types of conversations I hope to stimulate by publishing this book are sorely needed, and they ultimately may move stress education to a higher and more helpful level. 

I know there are student organizations on many college campuses today that are focused on helping students cope with the stresses of college life.  Hopefully, some of these groups will take advantage of this freely available e-book to hold book club type discussions, or to otherwise debate the merits of its contents. 

And then there are countless individual college students who could benefit greatly from downloading this free e-book and grappling with the ideas it contains on their own, or in private discussions with just a few close friends. 

What Does It Contain? 

College Stress Relief: What Every Student Should Know (And Spread Around) ASAP! is a 160-page PDF e-book that is available for free download (no email required) at  

Once again, this book is divided into four main sections, in addition to a brief introduction: 

  • What You Will Gain From Reading This Book (Introduction)
  • 9 Big Myths About Stress That Are Keeping You Stuck
  • Don’t Manage Your Stress…Banish It!
  • How To Correctly Understand The Causes Of Your Stress
  • You Can Learn To Win Against Stress  

You can get your own copy of this e-book by simply clicking on the link above. 

You are free to make copies of this PDF e-book and share it with your friends and fellow classmates. There are only two stipulations–that you don’t change the content, and that you don’t offer this e-book for sale, but rather always distribute it for free. 

NOTE:  To receive a free weekly digest of all future posts on this blog, sent directly to your email every Sunday, please use the sign up form at the top of this page.

Also, if you’d like to view all of my stress relief Kindle books on Amazon, simply click on the link below:


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