Stress Less: A UVA Student’s Guide to Stress Management

During the fall of 2019, the transition from high school to college was one of the most exciting, overwhelming, and yet terrifying experiences of my life. As I prepared to begin my first year at UVA, I looked forward to making new friends, learning new things, getting more personal freedom, and taking responsibility to pave my own future. My anticipation was also accompanied by feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. I was a first-generation college student and moving to Charlottesville was the first time I would be living away from my family all on my own. College threw new social, academic, financial, and personal challenges that I had never experienced before, and this test of resilience was a learning experience on how to manage my stress as a UVA student. 

After the initial excitement and adventure that came along with the eventful Welcome Week, football games, and making new friends, a new wave of emotions transpired. A month and a half after my fall semester of 2019, I received back my grade for my Microeconomics midterm. I had studied for hours in the study lounge for multiple nights in a row and once I did not receive the grade I had hoped for, I honestly felt crushed. At the same time, I began to feel homesick. The dining hall food could never compare to my mom’s home-cooked meals, and the backaches I developed from my twin XL bed quickly made me yearn for the comfort of my bed back home. But I realized that Charlottesville was supposed to be my new home, and I had to adjust and take the initiative to tackle these stresses and facilitate the transition to college by navigating through new academic demands, learning styles, and organizational and time management skills. 

To address my academic concerns, I reached out to my professors and TAs during office hours in order to supplement the knowledge I acquired in lectures and be better prepared for exams. I engaged in active learning by bringing questions to lectures, taking detailed notes, and asking further questions after class. However, college is so much more than just studying and academic success. If I stressed too much about being the “perfect UVA student” and getting the best grades, I found myself getting even more anxious and encountering imposter syndrome. Thus, I developed a schedule that balanced academics with physical activity, social interactions, and alone time to simply unwind and reflect. I learned that the best way to manage stress as a student at UVA is trying to change the external obstacles that affect me or the internal factors that strengthen my ability to cope with stressors. The five broad strategies of stress management techniques are:

  • Time management
  • Organizational skills
  • Exercise
  • Relaxation and meditation techniques
  • Support systems

Journaling was an important reflective strategy that helped me reduce both personal and academic stress. Simply putting my emotions down on paper relieved some weight off my chest and enabled me to articulate what exactly I was feeling so I could appropriately address what made me feel stressed. I also discovered many places on Grounds that helped me unwind after a long day of classes. The secret gardens scattered around the perimeter of the lawn are scenic spaces where students can simply enjoy quiet time to themselves or with some friends and appreciate the serenity of nature. There are also many great recreational spaces on Grounds such as the three gyms which are Slaughter Recreation Center, the Aquatic & Fitness Center, and Memorial Gymnasium, as well as the many outdoor fields and courts where you can play games with some friends and have some competitive fun. Here is a list of places and activities to reduce your stress on-Grounds and in the Charlottesville area:

  • Resiliency spaces dedicated to relaxation and contemplation
  • Picnics on the Lawn
  • UVA’s pavilion gardens
  • Hiking trails on Humpback Rock, Crabtree Falls, and Saunders-Monticello Trail
  • Vineyards: King Family, Jefferson, Blenheim
  • American Shakespeare Center
  • Chris Greene Lake Park
  • Charter Mountain Orchard
  • The Spa at Boar’s Head Inn
  • Downtown Charlottesville

Getting involved in extracurricular activities and clubs can also significantly help students relieve stress. With the vast array of clubs and organizations that UVA has to offer, there is a place for every student to find a sense of belonging among others who share similar interests. Clubs often engage in fun activities and events that are a great way to meet new people and get involved without feeling like an additional obligation. Fortunately, there are over 800 clubs and organizations at UVA so you won’t ever have to worry about being bored. From arts, academic clubs, cultural organizations, religious and spiritual groups, sports and recreation, and community service and social justice, there are endless possibilities to create your own unique experiences and explore your passions. 

Reaching out and confiding in others is another common way for UVA students to manage their stress. It can be challenging to open up about your struggles to other people, but reaching out can help you find the emotional support you need when college life gets a little too hectic. The UVA community provides a warm atmosphere where you can confide in your peers, RAs, TAs, professors, advisors, deans, and many more sources for social support when you feel stressed. The University offers a number of resources for managing stress for UVA students:

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) – (434) 243-5150
    • UVa’s FREE, confidential student counseling clinic located in Student Health.
    • Appointments: One-on-one support for any kind of stress or anxiety plus help building stress management skills.
    • Growth Groups: Several support groups for learning and healing, including a mindfulness group. http://virginia.edu/studenthealth/caps/group.html  
  • Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS) – (434) 924-7133
    • Help navigating any issue, no matter how big or small. 
  • Madison House HELP Line – (434) 295-TALK
    • Talk about anything at any time, 24/7.

If the stress you are experiencing becomes too much to handle in a crisis, get support right away with the following resources:

  • CAPS (434) 972-7004 for after-hours emergencies
  • ODOS (434) 924-7166 for after-hours emergencies


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