What is Stress?
Stress is tension or pressures that are a natural part of living our lives. There are various sources of stress, and it is not always a bad thing. Some stressors push us to work hard and achieve more. But sometimes these stressors can reach an unhealthy level, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet our goals. Did you know that when stress reaches this level it can cause health issues, interpersonal conflicts, depression, and anxiety?
Recent research from The Jed Foundation and MTV found that over half of all college students had been so stressed that they couldn’t function at some point during the last year.
Coping with Stress
Thinking about all the things we need to do to reduce our stress levels can make us feel…stressed out.
Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions of ways to reduce and manage the stress in our lives.
Know your stress triggers.
Stress and its triggers are different for everyone. Certain people, places or situations might produce high levels of stress for you. Think about what causes you stress, and brainstorm solutions. If public speaking or presentations at school or work make you stressed, start preparing early and practice several times. If there are friends or social situations that cause extreme stress, you may want to avoid them when you are already feeling tense or overwhelmed.
All forms of exercise reduce stress hormones, flood the body with feel-good endorphins, improve mood, boost energy and provide a healthy distraction from our dilemmas. Plus, exercise may make us less susceptible to stress in the long run. Find physical activities that you enjoy and try to devote about 30 minutes to them each day.
While it’s impossible to eliminate all negative stress from our lives, we can control the way we react to stress. Our body's’ natural fight-or-flight responses can take their toll. When we’re faced with a stressful situation that our minds perceive as a threat, it sends various chemicals, like adrenaline and cortisol, throughout our bodies. As a result, heart rate and breathing speeds up and our digestion slows down. This tires out the body. Relaxation techniques are a huge help in calming us down, boosting mood and fighting illness. Try a variety of techniques — like yoga, breathing exercises, meditation and visualization — to see what works for you, and schedule a relaxation break every day.
Watch out for signs of stress overload. Symptoms of too much stress can be physical, emotional, mental and behavioral. While everyone is different, some common signs are: memory problems, trouble concentrating, racing thoughts, irritability, anger, sadness, headaches, frequent colds and changes in sleep or appetite.
If those signs of stress overload sound way too familiar, then talk to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling. If you feel like you need some help in managing your stress, schedule an appointment with a counselor on your campus or in your community.