How to stop feeling overwhelmed as a student

Students can feel overwhelmed during their studies, including causes such as homework, exams, and essays. Here are our top tips to alleviate this feeling.

Clock 4 min read Calendar Published: 13 Dec 2023
Author Lawrie Jones
How to stop feeling overwhelmed as a student

Students are feeling the pressure to perform. Almost half (36%) of college students said that stress was impacting their academic performance. If you’re feeling stressed and worked, there are some proven ways you can reduce feelings of being overwhelmed as a student.
Finding ways to manage feelings of stress and depression is key to ensuring happiness, health, and academic achievement.
In this blog, we're going to explore why students like you are feeling overwhelmed and provide 10 tips, tools, and techniques every student can use to reduce study-related stress.

Why do students feel overwhelmed?

So, why do students like you feel overwhelmed? It’s a big question with a range of factors. Transitioning from high school to college is a big change. Students in college have to take on a huge range of new responsibilities, which can cause stress. Other issues that can cause stress include a lack of good time management, changes in routine (eating, sleeping, and exercise), and exhaustion caused by simply doing too much.
Alongside lifestyle changes, study-related stress is high among college students. The more stressed students are, the worse their academic performance. It’s hard to get accurate figures, but some experts suggest the average college student studies up to 36 hours per week – that's the same as a full-time job and leaves little for social activities and opportunities that college offers.
In some cases, students are getting stressed by pushing themselves too hard to achieve unrealistic goals and expectations in their academic and social lives. As well as hours spent studying, most US college students spend 2-3 hours each day on social media. While it's essential to build networks, high levels of social media among college students are linked to worse mental health, and can lead to feeling overwhelmed.
The impact of stress on mental health is clear, with 61% of college students seeking help for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. While the stats are worrying, it’s actually a positive sign that students recognize the impact that stress can have on their overall health and happiness – and are seeking help.
Developing some positive study habits and using some proven tools, techniques, and new digital technologies can help every student reduce stress – and we can show you how.

10 ways to stop feeling overwhelmed as a student

Here are 10 things every student can try to reduce study-related pressures and improve academic performance.

1.   Prioritize tasks

Everyone knows how to create a To-Do list, but have you heard about the Eisenhower Matrix? The Eisenhower Matrix is the brainchild of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower and can help you to differentiate between urgent and important tasks.
Creating an Eisenhower Matrix every day (or at the start of each study session) can help you focus your attention on the tasks and activities that matter most and reduce the risk of feeling overwhelmed.
Here's a great explainer of the Eisenhower Matrix by the productivity experts at Asana. You can download a template that’s free to use to get you started.

2.   Switch off social media to stay focused

Social media is a significant stressor and can easily capture your attention for hours. There are hundreds of tools and programs that can help you remove the temptation to check. One of our favorites is the Google Chrome extension Stayfocusd. It's free, easy to use, and will block social media sites and others while you're studying.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll have your smartphone close to hand as you study. The free app Forest is a fun way to stop you from checking your phone for a set period. You plant a tree on your phone and watch as it grows. Click onto your social feeds or email program, and it’ll wither and die.

3.   Set realistic Goals

One major cause of stress is setting ourselves unrealistic targets or unachievable aims. Do this, and you're setting yourself up to fail.
Success is easier to achieve through hundreds of small steps than one giant leap.
Define achievable goals for each study session and create short, measurable objectives. Achieving them can boost your sense of accomplishment and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed.

4.   Create a structured schedule

Plan your week of study activities in advance and break it down into chunks. You can allocate time for classes, study sessions, and breaks. Focusing too long on a single subject or study area for too long doesn’t improve education, says the American Psychological Association. Instead, balance intense and focused study sessions with time to relax and have fun; it's what college is all about, after all!
A consistent routine can enhance focus and productivity and ensure you're progressing towards your objectives.

5.   Embrace the power of 'No'

You can’t do everything, and that's okay. Be selective about your commitments and have the confidence to say no sometimes. It’s important to recognize your limits and turn down social activities, events, or other things that can interfere with your study plans.
Of course, once you’re finished with the books, embrace the power of “yes”!

6.   Use technology to improve studying

New technologies like Glean can help every student to improve the learning process, making studying, revision, and reflection more efficient.
Glean is a personal study tool that enables you to capture every class, enabling you to access a video of every lecture or seminar. You can play and pause, adding notes where appropriate. You can even use the advanced AI facilities to produce accurate transcripts that can remove the need to take notes during lectures, enabling you to immerse yourself in the learning experience.
Glean is an all-in-one solution that can take the stress out of studying, making it more efficient and enjoyable.

7.   Practice mindfulness and meditation

This won’t be for everyone, but mindfulness exercises and meditation are proven to help calm your mind and center your thoughts.
Spending even a few minutes a day can make a significant difference to your mental health and put you in a positive frame of mind – and it doesn’t need to cost a cent. Here is a list of free meditation and mindfulness resources for students.

8.   Organize your study space

It sounds simple, but organizing your study space and materials can reduce stress. Why? Because clutter can be overwhelming and create uncomfortable or unpleasant spaces for studying.
Here’s our guide on how to make your room better for studying.

9.   Eat well and exercise: Take care of your health

It sounds obvious, but our physical health and mental well-being are intrinsically linked. When you're feeling physically stronger, you're better able to fight off feelings of being overwhelmed when studying.
The advice is simple. Without wanting to sound like a nagging parent, be sure to exercise, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep. You'll find you're stronger and more able to beat stress.


10.  Ask for help when you need it

There are two types of stress: the kind you can cope with and the type you can't. If you're finding things are getting too much, there's always help available. You can speak to a friend or family member, a faculty leader, or seek help from your college. Never suffer from the feelings of being overwhelmed on your own.
You can find more resources to help you reduce stress and study smarter here.

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