Stress And Stress Management Among College Students
Stress is a fact of life, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. You cannot avoid stress, but you can learn to manage it so it doesn’t manage you. Changes in our lives such as going to college, getting married, changing jobs, or illness are frequent sources of stress. Keep in mind that changes that cause stress can also benefit you. Moving away from home to attend college, for example, creates personal-development opportunities new challenges, friends, and living arrangements.
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That is why it’s important to know yourself and carefully consider the causes of stress. Learning to do this takes time, and although you cannot avoid stress, the good news is that you can minimize the harmful effects of stress, such as depression or hypertension. The key is to develop an awareness of how you interpret, and react to, circumstances. This awareness will help you develop coping techniques for managing stress.
Stress has a different meaning for different people under different conditions. Stress is the nonspecific response of the body to any demand. The word stress is a nonspecific response to any demand that was most appropriate. Stress is not identical to emotional arousal or nervous tension since stress can occur under or in response to anesthesia in man and animals, and it can also occur in plants and bacteria that have no nervous system. This point is elaborated later in the context of stress-induced heat shock proteins (Hsps) that play a key role in cytoprotection across all three phylogenetic domains of organisms on Earth. Stress is part of our daily human experience, but it is associated with a great variety of essentially dissimilar problems, such as surgical trauma, burns, emotional arousal, mental or physical effort, fatigue, pain, fear, the need for concentration, the humiliation of frustration, the loss of blood, intoxication with drugs or environmental pollutants, or even the kind of unexpected success that requires an individual to reformulate his lifestyle. It is difficult to see at first how such essentially different things as cold, heat, drugs, hormones, sorrow, and joy could provoke an identical biologic reaction. Nevertheless this is the case; it can now be demonstrated by highly objective, quantitative biochemical and morphologic parameters that certain reactions are totally nonspecific and common to all types of agents, whatever their superimposed specific effects may be.
CAUSES OF STRESS
The most frequent reasons for “stressing out” fall into three main categories:
1. The unsettling effects of change
2. The feeling that an outside force is challenging or threatening you
3. The feeling that you have lost personal control. Life events such as marriage, changing jobs, divorce, or the death of a relative or friend are the most common causes of stress. Although life-threatening events are less common, they can be the most physiologically and psychologically acute. They are usually associated with public service career fields in which people experience intense stress levels because of imminent danger and a high degree of uncertainty police officer, fire and rescue worker, emergency relief worker, and the military. You may not plan to enter a high-stress career, but as a college student, you may find that the demands of college life can create stressful situations. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) notes some of the more common stressors for college students:
• Increased academic demands
• Being on your own in a new environment
• Changes in family relations
• Financial responsibilities
• Changes in your social life
• Exposure to new people, ideas, and temptations
• Awareness of your sexual identity and orientation
• Preparing for life after graduation.
STRESS MANAGEMENT AMONG COLLEGE STUDENTS
As noted in the Introduction, you can learn to manage stress. The first step is understanding yourself better how you react in different situations, what causes you stress, and how you behave when you feel stressed. Once you’ve done that, take the following steps: Set priorities. Use the time-management tips are:
Make a To-Do list. Decide what is really important to get done today, and what can wait. This helps you to know that you are working on your most immediate priorities, and you don’t have the stress of trying to remember what you should be doing. Practice facing stressful moments. Think about the event or situation you expect to face and rehearse your reactions. Find ways to practice dealing with the challenge. If you know that speaking in front of a group frightens you, practice doing it, perhaps with a trusted friend or fellow student. If the pressure of taking tests causes you to freeze up, buy some practice tests at the school bookstore or online and work with them when there are no time pressures.
Examine your expectations. Try to set realistic goals. It’s good to push yourself to achieve, but make sure your expectations are realistic. Watch out for perfectionism. Be satisfied with doing the best you can. Nobody’s perfect not you, not your fellow Cadet, nobody. Allow people the liberty to make mistakes, and remember that mistakes can be a good teacher. Live a healthy lifestyle. Get plenty of exercise.
Eat healthy foods. Allow time for rest and relaxation. Find a relaxation technique that works for you prayer, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. Look for the humor in life, and enjoy yourself. Learn to accept change as a part of life. Nothing stays the same. Develop a support system of friends and relatives you can talk to when needed.
Believe in yourself and your potential. Remember that many people from disadvantaged backgrounds have gone on to enjoy great success in life. At the same time, avoid those activities that promise release from stress while actually adding to it. Drinking alcohol (despite what all those TV commercials imply), drinking caffeine, smoking, using narcotics (including marijuana), and overeating all add to the body’s stress in addition to their other harmful effects. Here are some other strategies for dealing with stress:
• Schedule time for vacation, breaks in your routine, hobbies, and fun activities.
• Try to arrange for uninterrupted time to accomplish tasks that need your concentration. Arrange some leisure time during which you can do things that you really enjoy.
• Avoid scheduling too many appointments, meetings, and classes back-to-back. Allow breaks to catch your breath. Take a few slow, deep breaths whenever you feel stressed. Breathe from the abdomen and, as you exhale, silently say to yourself, “I feel calm.”
• Become an expert at managing your time. Read books, view videos, and attend seminars on time management. Once you cut down on time wasters, you’ll find more time to recharge yourself.
- Learn to say “no.” Setting limits can minimize stress. Spend time on your main responsibilities and priorities rather than allowing other people’s priorities or needs to dictate how you spend your time.
• Exercise regularly to reduce muscle tension and promote a sense of well-being.
• Tap into your support network. Family, friends, and social groups can help when dealing with stressful events.