Feeling stressed and overwhelmed at college is much more common than one might think. This in turn messes with students’ performance and motivation to continue their studies. But what should they do to overcome these daunting emotions?

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Key Takeaways

  • College students often face feelings of being lost or unmotivated due to academic pressures, new responsibilities, and sometimes being away from home. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout.
  • Procrastination, a common challenge among students, is linked to conflicts in the brain and can result in delayed tasks, increased stress, and negative emotional consequences like guilt and low self-esteem.
  • There’s a strong link between a student’s physical and emotional well-being. Neglecting physical health, like lack of proper diet or sleep, can have adverse effects on mental health. On the positive side, regular exercise and good nutrition can boost overall mood and performance.

Many college students, at some point, experience feelings of being down and unmotivated. Transitioning to college life can be overwhelming, with new responsibilities, academic pressures, and sometimes, being away from home for the first time. Balancing studies, work, and social life can lead to stress and burnout. Furthermore, the pressure to excel and meet high expectations can weigh heavily on their shoulders.

One of the users on Reddit shared a similar sentiment, explaining how their life in college became a bit glum.

What Happens in Our Brains When We Procrastinate

Procrastination is a common challenge that many college students face. It’s the act of delaying or postponing tasks, often leading to increased stress as deadlines approach. At its core, procrastination is not just about being lazy.

Science describes procrastination as a conflict that arises within the brain when confronted with a disliked task or activity. This clash occurs between the limbic system, an unconscious area housing the pleasure center, and the prefrontal cortex, a newer part of the brain responsible for planning and decision-making.

In college, students are exposed to a variety of subjects, many of which may be new or challenging. The pressure to perform well, combined with the newfound independence, can sometimes make students put off assignments until the last minute. This can result in rushed work, which often lacks quality, leading to poorer grades. Additionally, chronic procrastination can disrupt a student’s schedule, causing them to miss out on social activities, personal time, and even adequate sleep.

Some of the commenters reflected on that and stated that everybody feels down one way or another. 

“College is the most stressful, lonely and boring years of a human life. It is normal. Everyone else is as miserable as you.”

Procrastination can also have emotional consequences. The consistent cycle of delay followed by panic as deadlines near can lead to feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and low self-esteem. Over time, this pattern can erode a student’s confidence in their abilities. As a consequence of procrastination, many students have to deal with mental health issues. The transition to college life can be challenging, with students facing academic pressures, adapting to a new environment, and often living away from home for the first time. These changes can lead to stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness or isolation.

Several users shared their own tips about when they were dealing with such situations in college. One of the people suggested keeping a journal or a similar thing where you can track your well-being.

“Caring for my mental health was the best thing I ever did. Keep a mood journal or buy a depression workbook. If you feel like you may be depressed or if symptoms of mental illness are effecting your quality of life, seek treatment. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it.”

Another student proposed to just wind down and have a self-care day since in most cases students are just very overworked.

“I felt the same way I couldn get any work done and was miserable I ended up just taking a day to have fun and not worry about everything. Sometimes the best thing to do is just try to have a good time and unwind, you can’t let school work get you down.”

Anyway, many students also grapple with financial pressures and the demands of balancing work, studies, and social life. Such challenges can exacerbate existing mental health issues or trigger new ones. It’s not uncommon for students to experience depression, anxiety disorders, or heightened stress during their college years.

Physical and Emotional Health of Students

The relationship between a student’s body health and their feelings is strong and connected. When students feel good physically, they are more energetic, think clearer, and generally feel happier. 

Studies indicate that individuals with mental health issues are more prone to certain physical health problems, like heart disease. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Genetics: The same genes that increase your risk for mental health issues might also increase your risk for physical health problems.
  2. Low Energy: Some mental health conditions or their medications can make you feel tired or less motivated to care for yourself.
  3. Concentration Issues: If you have problems with focus due to your mental health, you might find it challenging to schedule or attend doctor appointments.
  4. Limited Support: Some doctors might think you can’t change unhealthy habits because of your mental health condition, so they might not offer help, like advice on quitting smoking.
  5. Medical Assistance: Sometimes, doctors might think your physical symptoms are just part of your mental health problem and not look into them further. Also, people with mental health issues might not get regular health checks, which can catch physical problems early on.

However, it’s not the end of the world. Doing regular exercise and eating well can make students feel better because the body releases happy chemicals. One user under the original post advised to check in with medical specialists and review whether you have all of the necessary elements in your diet.

“When I had blood work done, doctor said I had a Vitamin D deficiency. I wised up and started taking lots of multivitamins, watching my diet, and prioritizing regular sleep hours. Felt 200% better within a couple weeks and my grades came up too.”

On the other hand, if students feel stressed or sad, they might not take care of their body. They might sleep less, eat junk food, or not exercise. This can make them feel even worse emotionally. Also, when students have body health problems, they might feel lonely or worried.

“Don’t discount how much your physical health is often connected to the emotional state. Make sure you’re not neglecting any aspect of your physical health as you make this transition to college life.”

One of the ways to temporarily get your feelings under control and make yourself feel more productive in the long run is to study outside, as it can be a refreshing change. Nature provides a calm atmosphere, helping the mind focus and absorb information better. The fresh air can rejuvenate your senses and reduce stress. Moreover, you can join a club or something similar to keep yourself entertained on the weekends.

“Get a portable quilt or tablet and go outside to do homework. That’s made me so much more productive. Genuinely join a club or even a church if you’re religious- that’ll take up half your day on the weekends. And don’t be afraid to go home/visit nearby friends/family if you have them.”

To promote overall well-being, it’s crucial for educational institutions to recognize this problem. Encouraging a balanced lifestyle, offering resources for both physical and emotional support, and creating an environment where students feel comfortable seeking help can make a significant difference. Understanding and embracing your relationship with yourself is crucial to having a good time in college.

Rekindling Passion for Your Profession

During college, it’s not uncommon for students to lose motivation and passion for their chosen profession. Several reasons contribute to this feeling. Firstly, the academic pressure can be overwhelming. Theoretical classes may not align with what students envisioned, making them question their choice. Secondly, comparing oneself to peers who seem more accomplished or passionate can lead to self-doubt. Additionally, external pressures, such as family expectations or job market concerns, can sway students away from their original passion. No matter the reason –  it’s okay to doubt yourself and feel uneasy about it.

“I felt this way recently in my Master program. I realized it was because I did not feel like the degree I was working towards was something I was passionate about anymore. I began dreading completing the degree and working in the field I was getting licensure in (high school teaching). I ultimately decided to switch programs to a path I was more passionate about. I’m not 100% better but I’m better. Consider examining your own motivations and what you’re working towards. You may find a change of goals to be really motivating!”

Another student shared their experience. They totally understood that sensation, the feeling of being directionless and lacking enthusiasm. They had experienced a similar phase when pursuing their diploma, being part of obligatory courses that didn’t appeal to them.

“I’ve felt this way before, aimless and unmotivated. That was when I was getting my associates and taking classes I didn’t want to take but were required. So maybe you just aren’t enjoying your current classes, which is ok. It gets better. I’m getting my bachelor’s now and am now enjoying school a ton! Once I have a clear goal it gets easier to be motivated.”

In conclusion, feeling lost or unmotivated during college is a common experience many students face. It’s crucial to remember that this phase is temporary and often linked to external pressures and academic challenges. By seeking guidance, focusing on future goals, and remembering that everyone’s journey is unique, students can navigate these feelings and find renewed passion and direction. College is not only a place for academic growth but also personal development, and facing such challenges is all part of the valuable learning process.


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