Oh no…you’ve signed up for a credit-maximized semester, agreed to participate in three separate clubs, are working 20+ hours, attending campus sporting events, trying to stay healthy by exercising for 30 minutes every day , and all the while, handling all of your classwork – papers, homework assignments, readings, lab reports, presentations, quizzes, and exams. You can’t seem to catch up on sleep, and coffee isn’t doing the trick. Stressed? I would imagine so.
No matter who you are or what’s on your plate you’ve very likely experience a little something called stress.
Stress, which is basically a state of experiencing too much mental or emotional pressure, can also result in physical symptoms. Physiologically, you will experience a surge of hormones (cortisol) in your body when you’re stressed. This hormone increases your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels while decreasing the activity of your digestive system and suppressing your immune system. And while some level of stress is inevitable and even natural – your body will naturally self-regulate that – what happens if you are experiencing prolonged stress? It’s not great – headaches, upset stomachs, psychological effects (unease, anger, anxiety, and fear), etc.
So, what do you do if you find yourself in this sort of position? Take a deep breath. Exhale. Then, find something to take the edge off your stress.
Some common stress-relievers include:
Create an art project
Colored pencils, markers, watercolor paints, and crayons are dirt-cheap during school supply shopping time, and you can use virtually any medium for your masterpiece: a piece of loose-leaf, the back of your notebook, your best friend’s homework (just kidding), etc.
Go for a walk
As college students, we’re constantly walking to class, a place to eat, the gym, or a coffee shop to fuel our caffeine habits. Walking (and exercise in general!) is a great stress reliever. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, take a longer route to your destination. Those extra minutes spent outside will also give you an extra boost of serotonin (one of the feel-good neurotransmitters).
Hit the gym
Alternatively, if you have more time on your hands and the weight of the world seems to be pressing down on your shoulders, get a good workout in at the gym. You’ll exhaust your body, and so your mind will be ready to get to work without an anxious body ready to fight-or-flight (thanks, cortisol).
If lifting weights or doing laps on the track doesn’t sound appealing to you, try yoga. It’s been shown time and time again to be a great reliever of stress for your mind and body.
Listen to music that makes you happy
Pop in some earbuds and listen to music that takes you back to happier, more stress-free times.
Take a food or coffee break
Sometimes you feel stressed simply because you haven’t eaten all day or you haven’t been properly caffeinated. It’s easy to accidentally miss meals with an ultra-busy schedule, so if you’re feeling more stressed than normal, chances are you’re hangry or improperly caffeinated.
Call home or talk to a friend
Chatting with a friend or loved one is sometimes all you need to start feeling better. Just don’t go overboard with the venting – it could have an accidentally negative effect by working you up too much, wasting time, or burning out your support system from too much complaining. Vent in moderation!
Remember that this moment is just one brick in the Great Wall of Life
If the above stress-relief tactics don’t work for you, remember this: life is pretty long (relatively speaking). You have plenty of days ahead of you. Even if today is pretty stressful and awful, put today into perspective and remember it’s just one of many days you’ll experience over the course of a lifetime. You’ll have better days ahead. Chances are, you’ll eventually forget about this particular bad or stressful day. Life, of course, will always go on. It’s up to you to keep a positive attitude during tough times.
If you’re struggling, ask for help.
If you’re really stressed out and unable to get out from under it ask for help. Nearly every college and university have support resources to help students cope when they’re upset, unhappy, stressed out, depressed, or struggling. Speak to your instructors directly and see if they can help or point you in the right direction.