Stress Management

digital stress

What Is Stress?

Stress is your body’s response to certain situations. Stress is subjective. Something that may be stressful for one person — speaking in public, for instance — may not be stressful for someone else. Not all stresses are “bad” either. Graduating from college, for example, may be considered a “good” stress.

Stress can affect your physical health, your mental health, and your behavior. In response to stressful stimuli, your body turns on its biological response: chemicals and hormones are released that are meant to help your body rise to the challenge. Your heart rate increases, your brain works faster and becomes razor sharp, you have a sudden burst of energy. This response is natural and basic; it’s what kept our ancestors from falling victim to hungry predators. Stress overload, however, can have harmful effects.

We cannot eliminate bad stress from our lives, but we can learn to avoid and manage it.

Is All Stress Bad?

No, not all stress is bad. In fact, it can be healthy because it helps us avoid accidents, power through unexpected deadlines, or stay clear minded in chaotic situations. But stress is meant to be temporary.

Once you passed the “fight or flight” moment, your body should return to a natural state. Your heart rate slows, muscles release, and breathing returns to normal. But the circumstances of chronic stress so many of us face as a result of the pressures and demands of our modern lives means our bodies may frequently be in a heightened state with our heart pumping hard and our blood vessels constricted. Over time, these physiologic demands begin to take a toll on the body. This is the unhealthy side of stress.

Types of Stress

Acute Stress

Acute stress is your body’s immediate reaction to a new challenge, event, or demand — the fight or flight response. As the pressures of a near-miss automobile accident, an argument with a family member, or a costly mistake at work sink in, your body turns on this biological response. Acute stress isn’t always caused by negative stress; it’s also the experience you have when riding a roller coaster or having a person jump out at you in a haunted house. Isolated episodes of acute stress should not have any lingering health effects. In fact, they might actually be healthy for you — as these stressful situations give your body and brain practice in developing the best response to future stressful situations.

Severe acute stress such as stress suffered as the victim of a crime or life-threatening situation can lead to mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder.

Chronic Stress

If acute stress isn’t resolved and begins to increase or lasts for long periods of time, it becomes chronic stress. Chronic stress can be detrimental to your health, as it can contribute to several serious diseases or health risks, such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

Managing Stress

First, recognize stress:

Stress symptoms include mental, social, and physical manifestations. These include exhaustion, loss of/increased appetite, headaches, crying, sleeplessness, and oversleeping. Escape through alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behavior are often indications. Feelings of alarm, frustration, or apathy may accompany stress.

If you feel that stress is affecting your studies,
a first option is to seek help through your educational counseling center.

Stress Management is the ability to maintain control
when situations, people, and events make excessive demands.
What can you do to manage your stress?
What are some strategies?

Look around
See if there really is something you can change or control in the situation
Set realistic goals for yourself
Reduce the number of events going on in your life and you may reduce the circuit overload
Exercise in stress reduction through project management/prioritizing
Remove yourself from the stressful situation
Give yourself a break if only for a few moments daily
Don’t overwhelm yourself
by fretting about your entire workload. Handle each task as it comes, or selectively deal with matters in some priority
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Try to prioritize a few truly important things and let the rest slide
Learn how to best relax yourself
Meditation and breathing exercises have been proven to be very effective in controlling stress. Practice clearing your mind of disturbing thoughts.
Selectively change the way you react, but not too much at one time. Focus on one troublesome thing and manage your reactions to it/him/her Change the way you see your situation; seek alternative viewpoints
Stress is a reaction to events and problems, and you can lock yourself in to one way of viewing your situation. Seek an outside perspective of the situation, compare it with yours. and perhaps lessen your reaction to these conditions.
Avoid extreme reactions;
Why hate when a little dislike will do? Why generate anxiety when you can be nervous? Why rage when anger will do the job? Why be depressed when you can just be sad?
Do something for others
to help get your mind off your self
Get enough sleep
Lack of rest just aggravates stress
Work off stress
with physical activity, whether it’s jogging, tennis, gardening
Avoid self-medication or escape
Alcohol and drugs can mask stress. They don’t help deal with the problems
Begin to manage the effects of stress
This is a long range strategy of adapting to your situation, and the effects of stress in your life. Try to isolate and work with one “effect” at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. for example, if you are not sleeping well, seek help on this one problem.
Try to “use” stress
If you can’t remedy, nor escape from, what is bothering you, flow with it and try to use it in a productive way
Try to be positive
Give yourself messages as to how well you can cope rather than how horrible everything is going to be. “Stress can actually help memory, provided it is short-term and not too severe. Stress causes more glucose to be delivered to the brain, which makes more energy available to neurons. This, in turn, enhances memory formation and retrieval. On the other hand, if stress is prolonged, it can impede the glucose delivery and disrupt memory.”
“All Stressed Up”, St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch, p. 8B, Monday, November 30, 1998
Most importantly:
if stress is putting you in an unmanageable state or interfering with your schoolwork, social and/or work life,
seek professional help at your school counseling center