"Work hard, play hard"

 At Rice, the “work hard, play hard” mindset can often translate into a multitude of sources of stress, from rigorous academics and challenging extra-curriculars to packed social schedules and heavy college involvement.

 This mindset reflects the fact that most Rice students are multi-talented, high achievers accustomed to successfully balancing the demands of a high-stress lifestyle. In fact, stress is one of the most commonly heard complaints on this campus.

Even if you want or think you can do everything, there’s a point when it’s too much. The challenge is to find your limits. 

What is stress?

Stress encompasses a range of your body’s physical, psychological, and/or emotional reactions to dealing with life’s demands.   

Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of stress include:  

  • Feeling angry, irritable or easily frustrated
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Change in eating habits
  • Problems concentrating
  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems with memory
  • Feeling burned out from work or fatigued 
  • Feeling like you can’t overcome difficulties in your life
  • Having trouble functioning in classes, work, or personal life
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Nausea, headaches
  • Stomach pains and/or other digestive problems

Natural reactions to stress:
Temporary physiological reactions to stress are natural and not uncommon. They include:

  • Sweating
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Acne breakouts
  • Abdominal pain

These symptoms should recede once the situational stress is over. However, if you find that these symptoms worsen, continue over the long term, or interfere with your ability to function in everyday life, they could be an indicator of more serious health issues, and you should get help

Common Stressors for Rice students

  • Academic stress
  • Family pressures
  • Adjusting to Rice/a new place
  • Relationship problems
  • Roommate problems
  • Feeling overcommitted
  • Issues with professors
  • Sexuality and gender issues
  • Managing finances
  • Issues related to student leadership role

Please note: this is by no means an exhaustive list of potential stressors. If you find that your symptoms worsen, continue over the long term, or interfere with your ability to function in everyday life, they could be an indicator of more serious health issues, and you should get help. 

When should I be concerned?

A few indicators that stress is interfering with your everyday life include:  

  • Feeling trapped, like there's nowhere to turn
  • Worrying excessively and can't concentrate
  • The way you feel affects the way you function in your everyday life, such as your sleep, eating habits, studying, classes, social life, and relationships
  • Feeling “out of control” and having no idea what to do
  • Feeling continually fatigued, or irritable in otherwise relaxed situations
  • Feelings of despair 
  • Increased feelings of anger and hostility   

Coping with stress

  •  Talk to someone. – be open and honest about your stress issues with someone you trust, like a close friend, family member, or member of the college personnel team, like a college master or RA. Consider talking to someone in the Student Wellbeing Office or Counseling Center if you’re worried that your stress levels are interfering with your daily life. 
  • Exercise – regular exercise has been shown to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. 
  • Do something you enjoy – no matter how packed your day seems, take some time to do something for yourself, whether that’s reading a good book, going for a walk, watching your favourite tv show, or cooking, etc.
  • Relax – take some quiet time and do something relaxing, such as meditating, taking a hot bath, taking a walk, or getting a massage.
  • Know your triggers and how to reduce/avoid them – identify and understand common stressors in your life. What can you do to alleviate or eliminate these sources of stress? Consider talking with someone about stress-reduction strategies.
  • Re-evaluate your academic and extracurricular involvement – think about your academic and extracurricular priorities, and whether or not you feel able to achieve them based on your current levels of involvement in other things. How committed are you to these activities? How committed do you want to be to them? Does your current level of involvement allow you to take care of other important aspects of your life?
  • Boost your time management and study skills. Are you really making an effective use of your time? Try to work smarter by adapting and incorporating useful strategies for better managing your time and studying into your lifestyle.
  • Take care of yourself – make sure that you’re taking care of other aspects of your wellbeing, such as getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, eating well, and exercising regularly.
  • Laugh – do or watch something that makes you laugh, whether it’s youtubing stand-up comedy show clips, hanging out with funny friends, or just finding humour in life’s absurdities. 
  • Go somewhere else to study – if you feel like the atmosphere is too stressful or tense, especially around exam time, go off campus and study somewhere else, like a café, bookstore, or OC friend’s apartment. 

Please note: this information is not intended to substitute for medical or professional advice. If practicing these tips is not working for you, or you find that your stress is interfering with your everyday life, then contact the Counseling Center or another healthcare professional 


 1) I feel pretty stressed, but not to the point where I feel the need to seek professional help. What should I do? 

Even if you think that you can manage anxiety symptoms on your own, it never hurts to seek help early for help, advice, and tips on coping with your anxiety. Consider talking with someone you trust, like a close friend, member of the college personnel team, or RHA, about any issues you’re struggling with. If you’re exhibiting some of the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, consider the intensity, duration, and frequency of the symptoms before you write off going to a counselor. If any or all of these factors are significant, then you should consider talking with someone from the Counseling Center to figure out better ways to address it.  

2) One of my friends is exhibiting signs of severe stress levels, what should I do now? 

If your friend’s experiencing severe levels of stress, that may be a cause for concern and indicative of more serious, underlying issues. Having a conversation with a friend about your concerns can be hard. For tips on ways to approach the conversation, check out the “Get Help for a friend” link. Also consider suggesting alternative ways for your friend to cope with their stress by checking out the “Tips for Coping with Stress” section on this page. If you’re still unsure about how to have an effective conversation, consider contacting the Counseling Center. A staff member can help you figure out better ways to talk with your friend based on your specific situation. If you’re uncomfortable speaking with someone from the Counseling Center, start with a trusted mentor or adult in your life, such as a member of the college personnel team.  

3) How do I deal with my stress in my everyday life?

For tips on ways to cope with stress, see our “Coping with Stress” section on this page. Please keep in mind that these are only suggestions, and are not a substitute for professional help or medical advice. On the other hand, if you’ve tried these suggestions for a period of time and they don’t seem to be alleviating your stress symptoms, consider talking with a counselor from the Counseling Center to figure out better ways to address your stress issues. See the Get Help page for more contact information.  

4) I feel really stressed, and I think there might be something more serious going on. What should I do?

If your stress levels are interfering with your everyday life, then that may be cause for concern. Reevaluate your academic and extracurricular commitments. Also consider reassessing and revamping your time management and study skills to more effectively accommodate your priorities. If these suggestions don’t significantly alleviate your stress levels, or if you’ve tried them for a while and nothing seems to be working, then consider talking to someone from the Counseling Center. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with a counselor, talk with a close friend, RHA, or member of the college personnel team, such as a college master or RA.


“Stress.” The American Institute of Stress. 

“Stress.” American Psychological Association. 2011. 

“Stress.” National Mental Health America. 2011.