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Stretch Out, Not Stressed Out: How Yoga Can Help You Beat College Stress

The pressures and challenges college students face can take a toll on mental health. Stress and anxiety among college students appear to be on the rise. The 2017 Center for Collegiate Mental Health 2017 Annual Report from Penn State University noted yearly increases in stress and anxiety while other mental health conditions appeared to decrease.

That same year, the United States Census Bureau reported more than 18 million students were enrolled in colleges and universities in the U.S. Of those students, an overwhelming three out of four students reported overwhelming anxiety at some point in time. Thirty percent reported feeling some form of anxiety in the two weeks before the study was conducted.

Symptoms and Effects of Stress and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are difficult to diagnose. There is no definitive lab test or medical scan for either condition. The diagnosis is based on reported symptoms. The symptoms include changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness, sliding grades, difficulty concentrating, unexplained new physical symptoms like back pain, trouble sleeping, overwhelming sadness, or thoughts of suicide.

Anxiety can cause headaches, digestive problems, muscle pain, difficulty breathing, rapid or pounding heart rate, chest tightness, trembling, or fatigue. Anxiety can also manifest as an anxiety attack. Anxiety attack symptoms include sudden difficulty breathing, choking sensations, obsessive thoughts of imminent death, chest pain, cold chills, hot flashes, and lightheadedness.

How Yoga and Relaxation Techniques Can Help

Stress and tension are often held in the muscles. Shoulders tighten, neck muscles contract, and jawlines become taut. Anxiety, whether acute or long term, creates a cyclic effect. The body reacts to tension by drawing and tightening the muscles, and the tight muscles in turn signal a stress response from the body.

Yoga is an ancient practice with origins in India dating back more than five thousand years. Yoga incorporates muscle relaxation, mindfulness, and breathing techniques. Yoga postures are called asanas and can work to strengthen muscles and ease physical discomfort. Asanas require slow and deliberate action that lengthen and balance the muscles. Pent up muscle tension is released.

Meditation and visualization are a part of the practice and promote a relaxation response. This enables both body and mind to gain a sense of calm. Tensions and stress are eased, even just for a time. With routine practice, yoga can help ease anxiety and stress.

How Can You Incorporate Yoga into College Life

The National Institutes of Health report that forty to fifty percent of college students are physically inactive. Between class lectures and exams it may be difficult to find time for an adequate workout. Time for college students is not always easy to find.

Incorporating a yoga practice into college life does not have to be complicated. Interest in the practice has made the practice accessible to most communities. Popular social media and video-sharing sites provide access to yoga instruction on demand for little or no cost. Such resources allow for the practice to be tailored to different schedules.

There is another benefit for college students taking up the practice of yoga. Individuals can meet together in small groups either in a class or in private using free videos. The fellowship may provide a sounding board for students.

The natural benefits of yoga may help ease the effects of stress and anxiety during the college years. It is a habit that can continue to serve its practitioners far beyond graduation.


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