One of the secrets to surviving college stress is to meditate on what’s causing  you to be stressed out and to develop a plan of how to use healthy ways to overcome the effects of stress and receive peace and confidence.    This college stress relief prayer will help guide you through this process as you plug into God’s wisdom and supernatural help.

Emory 093Step 1: Take our “stress test”   

Feeling stressed out at college is a common problem.  Ask yourself if you are experiencing any of these things:

Loss of energy

Feeling down, helpless or hopeless

Feeling anxious or worried

Feeling overwhelmed

Feeling depressed

Unable to concentrate

Sleep problems (too much or too little)

Feeling pressured about exams

Worried about money

Having problems with a girlfriend or boyfriend

Feeling pressure from your family or having problems dealing with your family

Disagreements and problems with roommates and/or friends

Blowing off steam in unhealthy ways, such as binge drinking or doing risky things

Over-eating or under-eating

Putting too much pressure on yourself to get good grades; being freaked out by low grades

Feeling physically ill, such as stomach problems, headaches, etc.

If you are having any of the above, they may either be things that are causing you stress or a symptom of stress.

Stress is any reaction to an experience that causes you to feel uncomfortable and on high mental and emotional alert.

Emory 051Stress is not all in your head.  It actually causes physical changes in your biochemistry and your body.  Your bodily responses were designed to help you have an extra chemical boost to act quickly to get things done in times of danger.  However even low levels of constant stress can lead to insomnia, a lowered immune system, muscle pain, high blood pressure, obesity and depression.

Everyone experiences stress.  Stress is part of life.  However the more stress you feel without finding healthy ways to deal with it, the more impact it will have on you and your ability to do well in your studies and feel good about your life.  

Stress can be handled.  It’s possible to alleviate stress by doing the things necessary to get it under control.  These can include changing your lifestyle, changing your behavior, simplifying your life, getting help from an outside source such as a doctor or counselor, prayer and meditation and becoming more aware of your stress level and what’s causing it.

Step 2: Talk to God using our college stress prayer to get clarity. 

Emory 068The prayer below is designed to help you have a conversation with God about what might be causing your stress so you can discover the ways God might be directing you to deal with it.

It’s best to find a quiet, private time and place to do this.  Be sure to do what you can to block out interruptions by turning off your cell phone, etc.

College Stress Prayer

God, thank you for the opportunities of college life.  But sometimes there’s too much going on.  Here are some things I’ve noticed that tell me I’m stressed out _____________________________________________________________________

I claim the power of this Bible promise: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”   (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

Here are my worries about my academic work.  There are projects due and the exams I need to study for.  Here are the specific things I’m worried about academically ________________________________

Am I putting too much pressure on myself to get good grades?  Show me healthy ways to take a mental break from studying when I need it.  Here are some smart ways I can think of to take some of the pressure off myself ________________________________________

When I have deadlines, help me to handle them in a positive way by making a strong effort to get things done on time.  Here is a deadline that’s stressing me out today__________________________________

For the crunch times I claim this promise “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  (Isaiah 40:30,31 NIV)

I pray for perseverance, the ability to stick to things until they get done.  I ask for your help in the long haul for the following things that I don’t think I’ll ever get through____________________________________

I claim the power of the Bible promise: “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.”  (James 1:4,5 NIV)

I give you my worries about the money I need for my college tuition, debt, and the money I need for living expenses and gas money.  I ask for your guidance about summer work, part time work and the  career I’m hoping to have after graduation to pay off my loans.  Teach me to be a good manger of my finances and show me when I need to seek help.  Here are some money problems and worries I am having now ________________________________________________________________________

As I think about the future, I sometimes wonder if I’m in the right major.  Here are some of my thoughts about whether this major is right for me ____________________________________________________

I want to have good study, health and sleep habits, but it’s not always easy.  Show me the kinds of things that I am doing that aren’t helpful in my overall goal of getting an education.  Show me if I am over-involved in socializing and other activities, doing too much partying, putting off studying, on the Internet too much, working too many hours in my part time job, sleeping too much or too little ______________________

It’s exciting to be able to form new friendships and relationships.  But there are downsides in forming more serious relationships with the opposite sex and taking the chance at finding something that might last forever or might end up with rejection and a broken heart.  Here’s something that’s bothering me about the kind of serious relations I’m looking for or am into right now ____________________________________

And then there’s the whole thing with roommates, finding where I fit in and finding friends who will be there for me no matter what.   Here’s a relationship problem or void that’s been bringing me down lately ______________________

My relationship with my parents is changing, too.  They were used to being involved in every aspect of my life.  Help me with the following friction I’m feeling with my family right now ______________________________________

Being in college I’ve had more a chance to think about the meaning of life, where I’m going and what really matters to me.  Sometimes I question my faith and wonder if the things I learned as a kid are true.  Here are some things that are coming up with me about my faith and my life philosophy___________________________________________________________________________

God, I thank you that I don’t need to solve all of these things right now.  Just opening up to you about them helps.  This prayer time has shown me that there’s a lot more going on in my life right than just studies.  Please show me the most important thing to work on today and which parts of it to leave in your hands in the meantime.  Remind me to return to you in prayer again when I need it.  I thank you that you’re always there, ready to help me figure things out.  Amen.

Step 3: Pray about where to get good help when you need it. 

After you identify your areas of major stress, pray for wisdom and guidance as to where to go for help.

Money Problems.  A survey shows that money is the number one worry of college students.  Although you may think that problems with grades is the biggest reason people drop out of college, the number one reason cited is money problems.  More than 60% of college students work part time, 60% have student loans and 40% try to graduate in less than 4 years.

A good place to begin getting help if you’re having money problems is at the financial aid office on campus.  Also, consider talking to your parents or family about your money worries.

Depression, anxiety and eating disorders.  Many college students visit mental health counselors at some time during college.  27 out of 100 come seek help because of depression, 24 out of 100 seek help because of bipolar disorder (which often develops unexpectedly in early adulthood), 11 out of 100 seek help because of anxiety (anxiety disorders can be caused by a number of stressors, post traumatic stress being one of them if you are a victim, of rape, bullying or violence) and 12 out of 100 seek help because of eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and autism.

The same report said that students are using college mental health services at a much higher rate than in previous years and the type of issues they are dealing with are more severe.

If you even vaguely suspect that your behavior, feelings or ability to cope with things are no longer normal or your coping ability goes through drastic changes, don’t delay in seeking help at your college counseling service.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact a suicide prevention hotline immediately. 800-273-8255

Alcohol and drugs.  Many students to “blow off steam” by “partying” and in some college circles, the recreational use of alcohol and marijuana are an expected part of the social culture.  Studies done several years ago found that 40 out of 100 college students engage in “binge drinking.”  (5 drinks for a guy, 4 drinks for a gal at a time.)  The same survey reported that 23 out of 100 college students met the medical definition of being addicted to or abusing alcohol or drugs.  As far as campus arrests are concerned, 83 out of 100 are alcohol related.

Dealing honestly with alcohol issues is very relevant to handling college stress because the same report found that college students said they used these substances to escape from thinking about their problems, as a way to handle stress or as a way to relax.  The aftermath of drinking binges can cause further stress if it leads to trouble with campus police or later feeling embarrassed about your behavior.  And finally, since alcohol is a depressant, it can lead to greater depression and feelings of hopelessness.

If you think alcohol or drugs may be part of your problem,

Academic problems.  Everyone has different skills and talents, and during college everyone encounters a class or subject that doesn’t come easily to them.  In my case, I found out during a music appreciation class (a class that should have been an easy “A”) that I honestly can’t tell the difference between triple and duple beats or meter when the instructor played music and asked us to tell him what we heard.  I was very stressed out trying to do something that it felt impossible to do and I was extremely worried that I would flunk the next exam.  I made an appointment with the professor for a private tutoring session to help me learn how to hear the beat.  After about 20 minutes of working with me, the professor realized I really couldn’t discern beats.  I wasn’t just being lazy.  My brain was just lacking this ability that most everyone else has.  The professor  gave me credit for coming in for extra help and at least trying.  Although I didn’t perform well on the upcoming exam, the professor gave me a passing grade.

Here are some ideas on ways to find help if you’re stressed out about academics.  Check with your college to find out about any courses they offer on forming good study habits.  Also look into remedial classes and tutoring options.  Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your professor or academic advisor.  Join or form a study group from your class.  Consider taking classes you are worried about on a pass/fail basis.  Take a difficult required class during the summer at a local community college where classes are generally smaller, professors are more approachable and course work less rigorous.  Just be sure that your college accepts transfer credit from the institution.  If necessary, consider the option of dropping a class.  (Make sure you do this before the drop/add deadline.)  Also, if your academic stress is extreme, consider changing your major or even taking a semester off.  If you feel like you can’t concentrate, consider making an appointment with your doctor to determine if you are suffering from an attention deficit disorder.  If this is the case, medications can help.

Step 4: Ask God for guidance on how to lessen the stress of relationships. 

With the opposite sex.  Here are some of the top college relationship problems between the sexes cited by bloggers: moving too fast with physical attraction before an emotional relationship has had a chance to form , forming a serious relationship quickly and then one or both partners straying because they haven’t had a chance to explore other relationships, one or both partners still don’t really know what they want in life, communication problems, break ups, learning how to set boundaries and long distance relationships.

With friends.  Here are some of the top college relationship problems with friends during college cited online: roommate problems and disagreements, feelings of loneliness, difficulty finding your “group” when it seems everyone else already has a group of friends, peer pressures to engage in drinking, etc.

With parents.  These are the top relationship problems with parents during college reported online: the difficulty parents have “letting go” of control, money issues, pressure to succeed, students beginning to see their parent’s shortcomings once out on their own, students trying to hide things that they don’t think their parents would approve of or would make their parents worry if they knew.

Here are some ideas of where to find help with relationship problems: A good place to start is with a campus chaplain or a nearby campus ministry sponsored by your denomination.  They are trained in helping people deal with relationship problems and they can refer you to professional help if you need it.  For difficult relationships, consider using campus mental health services.  Most dorms have resident advisors who can help with roommate conflicts.  Talk over your problems with a trusted friend.  Join a support group that teaches how to set personal boundaries in relationships.

This is an area where it’s a little harder to find the specific type of help you need, such as how to get over a traumatic break up with a girlfriend or boyfriend.  Often we find ourselves having to make our own roadmap based on our personality and unique circumstances.  If you find yourself in this situation, consider journaling or writing down your thoughts and feelings.  Then use this as a prayer for guidance, asking God to show you what’s really going on and how to improve things.            

Step 5: Look for healthy ways to handle stress.  

Some of the unhealthy ways of trying to escape from stress include using food, junk food and over- eating as a means of comfort,  sleeping too much, using alcohol etc.  Studies show that even volunteer work can add to stress if you’re taking on too much responsibility for nurturing or helping someone.

Here are some healthy stress relievers you might consider.  On top of the list is doing a physical activity, such as walking, running, shooting baskets, bicycling, dancing etc.  Being out in nature is another great way to get recharged.  Interacting with dogs and animals is really effective.  If you don’t own a pet, visit a friend who has one.    Eat a healthy diet.

Meditation has always been high up on the list for relieving stress.  There are many ways to enter into Christian meditation.  Sitting quietly and soaking in the peace and God’s nearness in a calm, inspiring atmosphere helps you get away temporarily and refocus.  Ideas include visiting an empty sanctuary, walking a prayer labyrinth, attending a worship service, meditating in a place of natural beauty, using a devotional book, listening to Christian music, lighting candles etc.

You also might find it helpful to simplify your schedule by dropping out of nonessential activities or by limiting activities that cause you stress.  For instance if you can’t sleep because your mind won’t turn off, consider signing off of electronics half an hour before going to bed.

Step 6: Claim the following Bible verses:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27  NIV

“Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds the.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the filed grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will not he much more clothes you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink or What shale we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”    Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

“But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’  But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”  Luke 10:40-42 NIV

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”  Luke 8:14 NIV

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.”  Luke 21:34 NIV

“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit.”  Proverbs 23:4 NLT

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2 NIV

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10 NIV

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17  NIV

Links to other helpful articles:

Final Exam Blessing Prayer from the Bible

Final Exam Prayer Using Bible Verses

Finding Your Personal Space at College for Meditation and Prayer

Self Discipline Prayer

Test Anxiety Prayer Using Scriptures

Catch Up on Studies Prayer When Behind in School Work

Copyright Karen Barber 2014.  All rights reserved.