Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to Reduce Stress as a College Student

By Michele Beach 

          If you’re a college student, this is most likely the most stressful time of year for you – finals week.  The pressure is on to do well on all of your tests, hand in all of the assignments that are due, write what feels like a 1,000-page essay and, of course, try to have a social life somewhere in there.  Between spending countless hours in the library and scrambling to get everything done, it seems that no matter how well you are doing or how early you start to study, there is never enough time in the day. 
          Think about what college students go through.  Many leave home, and have the pressure to obtain high grades in connection with career aspirations, the stress of taking final exams, while trying to establish a romantic and social life, as well as dealing with the very high costs of college and possibly working at a job during the school year.  What’s not to stress about!?  Perhaps this is why national findings show that based on student’s reflections, there are record levels of poor emotional health among undergraduate students, according to an article in The New York Times published in January 2011. 
          Stress is a feeling as a reaction to a challenge.  Guess what?  College is a challenge, life is a challenge.  We are faced with challenges every day, so therefore we are faced with stress every day. So, now that we know stress is a part of life, it is important to understand where stress comes from.  Step back and identify the stressors in your life and how your attitude, reactions, thoughts and actions might affect these stressors you encounter.
          Once you know what stressors are a major factor in your life, you can apply the Four A’s to deal with stress: Avoid the stressor, Alter the stressor, Adapt the stressor, Accept the stressor.  
          There are many factors that compile a person’s overall emotional health and stress levels.  Since stress is a part of life, the healthier you are the more able you are to manage stressors in your life.  Constant stress can weaken the body’s immune system, which can cause another stressor in your life, so it is important to maintain a stable wellness lifestyle in order manage the approach to stress.
          There are numerous ways to help balance and reduce stress, but there are certain components of stress management that work most efficiently for college students, according to the University of Georgia and 
           Attitude.  Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.  How you think and react to situations can make all the difference.  Each time you think a negative though about yourself, your body reacts similar to a tension-filled situation.  Next time you are in a stressful situation, take a step back and try to change the way you think in order to reduce your emotional reaction of what is going on.  Adjusting your attitude can have a profound effect of your emotional and physical well being. 
          Being Healthy.  A healthy mind needs a healthy body.  Although this might seem impossible as a college student, there are ways to keep up your physical activity with a conscious mind of good nutrition habits.  Daily multi-vitamins are a great way to keep up your energy and immune system.  Since stress can weaken the immune system and can cause the body to be susceptible to catching a cold or virus, it is in your best interest to keep your body healthy even when your under stress.   Simple physical activity can release endorphins into your body, which we all know are the “feel good hormone” produced in the brain.  Just an easy 20-minute walk a day can increase your energy, improve sleep, self confidence and, as a little side note – walking also increases your longevity. 
          Relax.  What’s the word mean again?  To be calm, serene, worry and stress free.  Get familiar with relaxation, because there are several techniques anyone can apply to their life to significantly reduce stress.   By nurturing yourself and rewarding yourself with some relaxing time or even something fun (imagine that!), you can actually reduce stressors in your life.  Relaxation techniques are usually a personal preference, depending on your personality, but some good activities include: having a cup of tea, listening to music, spending time outdoors, getting a massage or indulging in a delicious treat.  Another great way to relax is to build connections; having a long talk with someone special, going out with a friend or playing with a pet are great ways for your mind and body to let loose and emotionally reward yourself. 
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Michele Beach is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College, where her major is Biology and she is studying Communication Arts.  She would love to combine her two interests as a future career.  Michele has been Class of 2013 officer for three years; she is currently the President.  She is also the Public Relations Officer of the Science Club.  Michele is a member of the Laetare Players, where she has been in three of the school musical performances.  Michele has enjoyed her time in the STAC community and can’t wait for the experiences that await her as a senior. 

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