“Stress is a physical and psychological reaction to issues and events emanating from one’s environment.”
Perceived obstacles to goal achievement, environmental change, life challenges and periods of significant transition are common stress triggers for university students. All of us experience stress on a regular basis. Most of this stress is actually positive serving to motivate us. However, like most things in excess, too much stress is negative.
Excessive stress usually develops over a period of time and often goes unnoticed by the individual until a physical or emotional toll has been exacted. One can learn to manage and maintain stress at relatively healthy levels. The onset of unhealthy stress is similar to blowing air into a balloon. If you blow and blow more air into the balloon without any controlled outlet, eventually the balloon explodes in an unpredictable and destructive fashion. However, if you blow air in, stopping periodically to let some air out, and blowing more air in, you can repeat the process indefinitely without any negative consequences. Managing stress is a similar process. Throughout life, you will experience stress. Learning to recognize the physical and psychological warning signs of stress is the key.
• Changes in sleep patterns; taking longer to fall asleep; waking up tired and not well rested
• Changes in eating patterns
• More frequent headaches than normal for you
• Shorter temper than normal for you
• Recurring colds and minor illness
• Frequent muscle ache and/or tightness
• More disorganized than normal for you
• Increased difficulty in task completion
• A greater sense of persistent time pressure
• Increased generalized frustration and anger
If this list seems like it describes you, seek some assistance at your campus counseling center. A counselor can assist you in reducing an unhealthy level of stress.
Proactive Stress Management
Mind and body are integrated as can be seen with the issue of stress. It is no secret that psychological stress and physical illness are related. Stress triggers physiological and chemical (hormones) changes in the body. Physical illness is commonly accompanied by increased stress. Thus, as we learn to manage stress we must address physical as well as psychological factors. As you consider the following tips, keep in mind that maintaining a balance between your intellectual, social and personal development is the key to a well-adjusted college experience.
• Add a physical workout to your schedule at least every other day. You can jog, power walk, use stepper, rowing or biking machines, swim or any other form of exercise. Physical activity is a great way to ensure that life’s minor stresses do not build.
• Set both long-term (this semester or this year) and short-term (this day or this week) goals. Write them down. Make them part of your time management schedule.
• Manage your time. Develop a schedule that provides for academic, social and physical time. Follow the schedule! Seek the help of an advisor in developing better time management skills.
• Each day find at least twenty minutes of ‘alone time’ to relax. Take a walk, write in a journal or meditate.
• Don’t sweat the small stuff…always ask yourself if the issue at hand is worth getting upset about. If it isn’t affecting your goal achievement, it may not be worth fretting over.
• Humor and positive thinking are important tools in stress management.
• Most importantly, communicate! Talking to a person who you trust be they a friend, roommate, family member, professor, significant other or co-worker about issues of concern is helpful. We all need someone to listen.