You Got Stress?

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By: Elizabeth Quintanilla

College can be a pretty scary place. In high school, hype and anticipation surrounds it. People will attack you with generic questions such as where you’re going to school, what you’re going to study, where you’re going to live, what your career plans are, among others.

There are so many questions that it makes you want to yell at everyone to leave you alone. How are students supposed to know what they are going to do for the rest of their lives during a time that the biggest decision they have to make is what lunch table to sit at? It can all be a very stressful time and decision to make.

Once they actually get to college, the stress follows. According to a 2009 poll by the Associated Press and MtvU, 6 in 10 college students report having felt so stressed they couldn’t get their work done on one or more occasions. With the pressures surrounding success, making good grades, getting that six-figure job and juggling a social life, stress seems like a pretty normal thing to feel. It becomes just a part of everyday life. The pressures that students face have increased across campuses around the world.

According to an article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, there is evidence that chronic exposure to stress hormones has a negative impact on brain structures that affect cognition and mental health. The effect on the brain is also impacted by timing and duration of the exposure to stress.

Familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of stress can help you get a jump start on managing it. According to a report by the Mayo Clinic, when left unchecked stress can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. When it comes to the body, common side effects are headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, sleep problems, an upset stomach and a change in sex drive. Common effects on mood include anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, feeling overwhelmed, anger/irritability and sadness or depression. Lastly, the common effects stress has on the behavior are overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, drug/alcohol abuse, social withdrawal and exercising less often

It’s best to deal with stress early and not allow it to become something larger than it needs to be. Here are tips from Help Guide:

Tip 1 Identify the sources of stress in your life. These could include things as obvious as work, moving, going through a divorce and school, but what people miss is that this could also include your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors that contribute to everyday stress levels.

Tip 2 Follow the four A’s of stress management: Avoid, Alter, Adapt & Accept.

Tip 3 Get moving. Go for a walk, a bike ride, use the stairs, play ping-pong, get an exercise partner, anything to get that heart rate up.

Tip 4 Connect with others because there is nothing more calming than to hang out with the squad or just people that make you feel understood and safe.

Tip 5 Make time for fun and relaxation.

Tip 6 Manage your time better, probably the hardest one for college students because they tend to consider themselves pro procrastinators.

Tip 7 Maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle. That includes eating well, reducing caffeine and sugar intake, avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and getting enough sleep; again, something that college kids struggle with.

A lot of people may not realize how serious stress can be. People think if you’re working hard, stress is just a part of it. To an extent that may be true, life is stressful, and it may never be completely stress free, but it is crucial that we try our best to keep our stress levels low because once they get too high is when we start risking our physical, emotional and mental health.         

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