Gross: Exercising to manage school anxiety


Photo: Andrew Clawson/Iowa State Daily

ISU’s largest Zumba class took place Monday, March 5, at State Gym. The event was open to everyone who holds a recreation pass, including ISU students.

Hailey Gross

As the spring semester finally starts rolling, many students are already over-burdened with long readings, huge assignments, and irritating group projects. After the lengthy and relaxing winter break, it can be hard to get back into the spirit of schoolwork. Often, the stresses of the new semester seem to pile up so rapidly that you are soon buried under the heavy weight of anxiety.

If you do feel like this, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking you are alone. Nobody out there has the same exact classroom stresses or personal problems, but every one of us struggles from time to time. Truly, most college students suffer from anxiety or depression at some point in their college careers.

A study done by Business Week found that more than one-third of college students who seek help at a university actually have extreme psychological issues. In addition, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that 62 percent of students with these psychological disorders who drop out of college do so as a result of their mental and emotional struggle.

Neither isolating yourself in your anxiety nor dropping out of college will help the situation. Solutions for anxiety and depression seem to be everywhere, plastered on campus fliers and smattered across various popular websites. Sometimes, the most common advice is hardest to take. Trivial things like getting more sleep, meditating, or taking time for yourself never seem as if they will really help. However, it is the small, elegant solutions that are often most beneficial.

One of the best things you can do for yourself if you are experiencing these feelings is stay physically active. Whether it is intramural sports, regular trips to the gym, or even a quiet hour of yoga in your apartment, staying physically healthy will help you stay mentally vigorous as well. It might sound like a stupid, simple thing, but exercise is extremely important for your well-being.

Working up a sweat does more than make your body stronger. Exercise releases endorphins in your brain. These endorphins help reduce how intensely you feel pain, whether that pain is physical, mental or emotional. If you are already someone who works out, you may know about the glowing, positive feeling that you get right after a good run on the treadmill. That improved outlook on life can be experienced after every workout. So, potentially, the more frequently you hit the gym, the better you will feel.

The idea of exercise as a form of stress-relief is hardly new. Almost everyone has at least heard the phrase “sound body, sound mind.” However, many students feel as though they simply do not have time to exercise. Even if an actual workout only takes half an hour, it takes additional time to get dressed properly, and after the workout, it takes additional time to shower and change. With the anxiety of schoolwork weighing heavily, the last thing some people think they need is an extra obligation on their schedule.

Yet it isn’t necessary to go to the gym every day of the week. It can be helpful to simply take some time for some relaxing yoga or a series of push-ups and sit-ups in the convenient setting of your home. Though exercise is innately rigorous, doing small things like this every day ends up being quite relaxing. The point is not to add to your long list of worries as a student, but rather help relieve those pressures.

It may seem like your mind and accompanying worries are separate entities from your body. However, when it comes to stress management, it is just as important to take care of your body as it is to take care of your mind. Getting a good night’s sleep and eating healthier are small and easy adjustments. Exercising regularly, no matter how difficult or taxing it may seem at first, can be more beneficial than all the sleep, meditation, and relaxation in the world.

Staying fit might be advice that you have heard thousands of times or may seem irrelevant to your personal problems. However, if you are dealing with school-related stress, it is advice you should truly consider taking. Whether it is the occasional stress of a series of exams or a constant anxiety from taking on too many credits in a semester, anxiety is something that all of us feel at one point or another. Do yourself a favor, and take a bit of time to sweat it all out.


Hailey Gross is a sophomore in English from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.