First Year Family Blog

Recognizing and helping your student manage stress

The first semester is going by so fast. By now, you may be hearing from your student that they are starting to feel some stress. The pressure of their academics picking up coupled with moving away from home can be a challenge for many students. Now that they’ve had a taste of college classes, some new students may be questioning whether they want to stick with their major or what they want to do in their future career. Needless to say, there are a lot of different things that can be on your student’s minds that can cause stress.

When is the stress of college too much? Below is an image outlining indicators and symptoms of stress.

Stress Symptoms. Source:

If you notice several of these signs or symptoms when talking or visiting your student, it can be helpful to ask them if they have a plan to manage their stress. Stress relieving tips you could recommend are:
1.    Get some serious sleep.  Getting enough sleep is a common issue with traditional college-age students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), students age 18 and up should be getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. Fatigue can impair academic performance, making it difficult to complete normal daily activities.

2.    Think positively – The saying “misery loves company” is popular for a reason. It’s important to keep a positive perspective to lessen current stressors and improve overall well-being.

3.    Exercise or have an outlet – Yes, it’s true, physical activity of any kind is a great stress reliever! Go for a walk, join an intramural sports team, or hit the gym. UW-River Falls has plenty of exercise options for students including plenty of walking paths and our Falcon Center. If physical activity isn’t your student’s thing, that’s okay too! It’s important to have a positive outlet like a social club that takes their mind off of their stress while also connecting with peers.

UC 12/21/2011

4.    Relaxation – Studying too much all day every day can be detrimental to a student’s success and well-being. Taking breaks is a great way to relax and also stay productive. Students can reward themselves after a study session with an episode of their favorite TV show, grabbing dinner with friends, meditating for five minutes, or reading for fun.

Falcon Center Yoga

Stress can be a by-product of working hard to earn a college education, but your student should not be suffering endlessly because of it. If you find your student is struggling to manage their stress, please encourage them to visit the Student Health and Counseling Office in Hagestad Hall. This office has licensed counselors, a registered nurse, and a wide variety of free programs and events aimed at helping students manage their stress and mental health. We all want your student(s) to succeed and sometimes that involves learning how to manage their stress. Luckily, we have resources and staff members who are ready to help your students do just that!


If your Falcon is new to college or this is their first time living away from home, it is likely at some point this first semester they will experience some form of homesickness. Everyone experiences homesickness differently. Ultimately, students are longing for something familiar during an uncertain time.

So as a parent, friend, and loved one (who is probably missing their student too) how can you help?
1.    Reassure them this feeling is temporary. Sometimes we all need a reminder that change is difficult and the adjustment takes time. It is so important for them to recognizing homesickness as a very normal reaction to a period of change.
2.    Get familiar with their new environment. With time, their new environment will feel more familiar and comfortable. However, they need to commit to exploring campus and the community! Have they tried out the local cafes and coffee shops? Have they found a good study spot? Have they checked out any residence hall events? Are they making time for socializing with new people and student organizations? Connecting with peers can be intimidating especially if your student is not used to intentionally meeting new people. The fact of the matter is that they just need to keep putting themselves out there and in time they will make friends.
Move-in day
3.    Stay connected but be careful that they aren’t too connected. Is your student coming home and calling very frequently? This may be a good indicator that your student has not adjusted to living at UWRF. It is certainly important to maintain family relationships and dynamics, however, if your student is coming home every weekend or very frequently it is probably because they do not feel they belong here on campus. During this transition, it is normal for students to call or touch base with family members and loved ones a few times a week or every day. In order to move past homesickness, students need to learn to live separately from their old environment and find new routines that work well for them.

Sometimes the transition to college brings new and challenging emotions that your student has not encountered before. They are completely capable of overcoming and processing these new emotions, and it just takes time and intentional action. As one of their biggest supporters, you can remind them of their goals and the benefits of their college journey. Ultimately, you know your student best. Trust your instincts and reach out to help as needed.