13 Sept 2019

Healthy Ways to Deal With College Stress and How These Can Help Your Teen Navigate University Drinking Culture

Drinking, binge drinking, and heavy drinking are more prevalent among full-time college students than other 18- to 22-year-olds.

Between academics, new friends, increased independence, and increased alcohol availability, being a full-time student comes with the risk of drinking more. College stress and drinking are linked, and can develop into a vicious cycle. But this cycle can be broken.

College Stress and Drinking: The Cycle

Students are overwhelmed by academics and stressed about developing a new social life and their own identity, so they drink more. Unfortunately, drinking can lead to the stimuli that cause stress. In fact, 25 percent of college students have academic problems due to drinking.

This cycle feeds a drinking culture in college. When peer pressure to drink meets stressed students, resisting drinking in college is difficult.

But it is possible, by learning how to manage stress in college, to reduce the risk of drinking too much.

Break the Cycle

College stress and alcohol often go hand-in-hand, but they don't have to. Students can learn how to deal with college stress and enjoy a sober social life at the same time. 

Stress management tips like the ones listed below can help reduce the risk of drinking at college:

  • Stay physically healthy by getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and eating well.
  • Keep stress from causing negative cognitive symptoms by managing your time and keeping a stress diary.
  • Avoid emotional drain by getting emotional support, maintaining hobbies and favorite activities, and nurturing a social life that isn't dependent on alcohol.

Sometimes, as much as you try to avoid stress, it creeps in anyway. You can still break the cycle by employing relaxation techniques. You might meditate or get a message. Maybe yoga is your thing. Go see a comedian and laugh, or even fake-laugh. 

Say No

If you're feeling pressed for time or overwhelmed, it can be tempting to turn to unnatural energy boosters. Avoid these as they won't actually decrease your stress; they'll just prevent you sleeping.

If you are feeling stressed, don't look to alcohol to provide relaxation. It might take the edge off at first, but this method of coping with stress can lead to alcohol dependence.

Know the Signs

Speaking of alcohol dependence, understand the signs so you can recognize if you or someone else is relying on alcohol too much:

  • Having just one doesn't provide relaxation anymore; you need two or more drinks
  • Drinking before noon feels necessary
  • When not drinking, anxiety about not drinking sets in


College stress and drinking may be linked, but they don't have to be your story, or your loved one's story. By coping with stress in healthy ways, saying no to unhealthy coping mechanisms, and knowing the signs of alcohol dependence, it's possible to break the stress-alcohol-stress cycle.

If you have additional questions about how to stay healthy and avoid alcohol dependence in college, drop us a line. We'd love to provide you with resources to maintain a healthy college experience, despite the stressful stimuli that come with being a college student.