One of the main reasons Lara Borrego dropped out of college was simple: "I was stressed," she said.

Borrego, 24, now a certified yoga instructor, attended Front Range Community College, but her unbalanced lifestyle -- complete with "too much partying" and accumulated stress -- led Borrego to ultimately drop out.

Keys to coping

A few ways college students can try to deal with stress:

1. Talk to an adult who you can trust. Whether this is a parent, friend or relative having a trusting open talk with someone you trust can reduce stress levels and reduce built-up emotions.

2. Stay active. Dance, stretch, lift weights, go for a hike, join an intramural team; do something that feels good. Several studies have shown diet and exercise reduce stress.

3. Stay in touch with family. Keeping trusted relationships foster a sense of security and a network to talk to important things with.

4. Take care of yourself. Getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and keeping a normal routine help keep you healthy and happy.

Source: Centers for Disease Control

Later, Borrego finished a one-year, 1,000-hour massage therapy program, and the key to success and battling school stress was finding balance.

"You have to know, this is my time where I get to play and this is the time where I have to buckle down and study," said Borrego, who also now manages the new CorePower Yoga on the Hill, at 129 13th Street.

A balanced life is one of the key components to managing stress, said Anne Schuster, the University of Colorado`s Community Health coordinator.

Academic hours must be complemented by other imperatives: personal health and wellness, relationships or extracurricular activities.

Schuster said CU discusses several strategies to help students cope with school-related stress, one of the most useful being to underscore the importance of scheduling down time into a hectic student schedule.

"Find time to do nothing. Or go on a hike," Schuster said.

Especially for incoming freshmen, the stress load can pile up and get quickly out of hand. Familiarizing oneself to a new environment, meeting new friends and adjusting to a more rigorous academic course load can ramp up stress and cause all sorts of other problems. Stress leads to a weakened immune system, inability to pay attention in class and decreased motivation.

Hurting performance

If left unmanaged, stress can result in debilitating tension and bust students` academic performance, according to research studies.

The American College Health Association`s National College Health Assessment, surveying more than 37,000 college students nationwide during the fall 2009 semester, found stress to be the leading factor in impediments to academic performance, with 43 percent of total respondents reporting that stress affected their academics.

Another 20 percent reported that their exam scores were dropped due to stress. Other hampering factors included sleep difficulties, relationship difficulties, illness and alcohol use.

Schuster said students should reflect on what about high school made them happy and try to reconstruct those things in a college setting.

Many students choose to hit the gym. Roughly 3,500 to 5,000 students work out at the CU Recreation Center every day, said Recreation Services director Cheryl Kent.

"It`s a good place to blow off steam," she said.

Fueling performance

But stress certainly can`t be avoided, and some stress may fuel better performance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some stress aides in dealing with tense situations such as keeping folks more focused, or serving as motivation to study harder on exams. It`s when stress becomes unmanageable that students derail from doing daily activities.

The CDC recommends several approaches to stress management: Stay active, develop a circle of friends, and talk to someone you can trust and identify prominent stressors. If stress, which is both additive and cumulative, grows to be problematic, the university offers students several outlets to meet with health professionals to get back on track.

Each CU student receives six free counseling sessions through the Counseling and Psychological Services each academic year, and can meet in one of several small group sessions that targets stress-management skills, which are offered throughout the academic year.

No set answer

Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb for figuring stress out.

"The trick is that different people manage stress in different ways," Schuster said.

Students must find what works best for them, individually.

For Emeri Martinez, a 19-year-old CU sophomore studying fine art, the trick is having home away from school.

Martinez, who lives in Longmont, said having a home away far away from campus helps distinguish work-- and study time -- from time to relax.

"A lot of my friends can`t separate school from just relaxing, but for me it`s easy," Martinez said.

Aimee Anderson, a 21-year-old psychology senior, shops.

Ted Gibson a 23-year-old senior, said, "College is all about balancing your social life and school life," as he walked away from his final college class in mid-July.

Perhaps that`s just the ticket, Gibson said: "If you can do that, it won`t be too bad."