As the semester is coming to a close, you may find yourself experiencing increasing levels of stress. Below is some information about stress, as well as some helpful “Stress Busters” to help you better cope with stress.
What is stress?
  • Stress is the body’s physical, emotional, or mental response to a perceived demand or threat.
  • Stress is the “wear and tear” our minds and bodies experience as we attempt to cope with our continually changing environment.
Common Symptoms of Stress
Physical

  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Sleep difficulties – too much or too little
  • Fatigue
  • Tight or sore muscles
  • Pain
Emotional

  • Irritability or frustration
  • Anger
  • Feeling “overwhelmed”
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Feeling “moody” or overly emotional
Mental

  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Disorganization
  • Low motivation
  • Poor judgment
  • Forgetfulness
  • Indecisiveness
  • Negative self-talk
Behavioral

  • Avoiding tasks or responsibilities        (procrastination)
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Over- or under-eating
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Poor self-care
  • Increased impulsivity
Stress Busters
  • Exercise regularly.  Exercise aerobically for at least 15 – 20 minutes per day. This is probably one of the most effective ways to reduce tension.
  • Eat well!  Avoid excessive caffeine or other stimulants as they may cause anxiety. Eating well-balanced meals will help you avoid a drop in energy and concentration.
  • Get adequate sleep.  Most people need 7-9 hours per night. Sleep not only rests your body, it also gives your brain the time to organize the material you’ve been studying.
  • Socialize.  Isolation has been tied to failure to cope properly with stress; it may even raise your level of vulnerability to illnesses.
  • Laugh.  Don’t take things so seriously. When we laugh/smile, blood flow to the brain is increased and endorphins are released. In turn, the level of stress hormones drops. Studies show that laughter not only relieves tension, but actually improves immune function.
  • Get rid of anger.  It is the single most damaging stress-related personality trait.
  • Be decisive.  Indecision prevents you from taking appropriate actions, thus, intensifying stress.
  • Be assertive.  Openly communicate your thoughts, feelings, etc. with others even when there are differences. Don’t be aggressive, though.
  • Adapt your environment to you.  Color, lighting and noise are all elements that engage and influence our senses. These things can work against you, adding stress, or they can work for you as environmental stress reducers.
  • Encourage yourself.  If you are inclined to blame yourself for problems (even when they’re not your fault), you may be guilty of negative self-talk, which is a great stress maker. Accept mishaps as routine and normal occurrences in life and you’ll have a higher self-esteem and a much lower stress level. Use positive self-talk.
  • Take note.  Writing down your feelings in a journal may relieve emotional stress. Get distressing thoughts on paper in order to counter them with positive beliefs/intention statements. It may also help you to visualize problems from a different perspective, and come up with creative solutions.
  • Slow down and relax.  Slow down. Don’t rush. Take a walk. Getting “away” will relax you and allow you to think more logically when you return.
  • Reward yourself.  When you accomplish a task, even a small one, reward yourself. Surf the internet, browse a bookstore, go to a movie. Those who do this experience a boost in the disease-fighting quality of their immune systems for several days.
  • Nurture your spirituality.  Religious or spiritual beliefs give us a context larger than ourselves, which can put things into perspective when we are stressed.
  • Take up a hobby.  If you pursue a hobby you genuinely like, you’re apt to get so absorbed in it that you don’t notice time passing. In that time, you’re likely to forget about the stress and be able to reach a level of total relaxation.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Seek counseling/health care if: you suddenly feel panicked, you are unable to work because of anxiety, self-treatment has failed, or the cause of anxiety is unknown.
  • Establish a routine.  By establishing a daily routine, you can save time and prevent stress. With predictability, you can be assured that even with everyday mishaps, some things remain constant.
  • Create lists.  Have a realistic daily written list of what you expect to accomplish that day. Prioritize. It will help you think more realistically about your schedule and time. Once you cross off an item from your “To-Do” list, it relieves stress by removing one concern from your mind.
  • Don’t procrastinate.  It lessens productivity and quality, compounds stress, and may cause the stressful by-products of guilt, anger, and low self-esteem. Remember: the worse your stress gets, the greater the tendency to procrastinate!

For further information and resources, visit the Stetson University Counseling Center Web site.