How to manage stress

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These days, it seems like stress levels are skyrocketing; balancing classes, tests, midterms, projects, extra-curricular activities, and work is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed. Here are some tips to help you manage stress during your busy life as a university student.

What is stress?

Stress produces a physiological reaction in your body. Hormones are released, which results in physical manifestations of stress. These can include slowed digestion, shaking, tunnel vision, accelerated breathing and heart rate, dilation of pupils, and flushed skin. Research shows that eight in ten students say that they have experienced stress in their daily lives over the past three months.

It can be difficult to see that students are struggling. Many students will try to appear confident and happy even when they are the complete opposite. Students don’t want others to see them struggling. University and college counsellors have also noted that students expect perfection from themselves, which can exacerbate your stress.

Effects of stress on your body

A constant state of stress can affect all aspects of your bodies: physical, mental, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral functions. Stress also decreases sleep quality; studies have shown that 70% of those who report persistent stress have trouble sleeping. Reports show that stress increases feelings of irritability and anger, which increases the likelihood of angry outbursts and social withdrawal. Stress can worsen your grades since your ability to focus during lectures or studying significantly decreases. Students who are confronted with chronic, relentless life stressors often turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope. Chronic, stressful life situations can increase your risk of acquiring physical illnesses.

Stress in university has been linked to smoking, skipping meals, obesity, lacking proper personal hygiene, experiencing panic, using substances and unhealthy food to self-soothe, and experiencing sleep disturbances that affect mood and performance.

How can we cope with stress?

  1. Breathe. Oxygen is the best calming agent for our bodies when anxious. Go out for a walk, or do some breathing exercises.
  2. Find a place outside in nature or a calm place in your home to collect the chaos in your mind.
  3. Try not to multitask and take on too much at once. Practice planning and accomplishing one small goal at a time, step by step.
  4. Drink enough water – Water improves concentration.
  5. Schedule regular exercise so it becomes a part of your daily routine.
  6. Practice mindfulness which helps bring you out of your anxious thoughts and into the present moment.
  7. Seek support through friends, professors, wellness centers, groups, or classmates.
  8. Pay close attention to your sleep, eating, and exercising. We simply can’t exist without tending to these three important components of wellness.
  9. Take time off from your studies and socialize; we need to have good breaks between school work!

Remember: Stress is not what happens to us; it is our response to what happens. Use these tools and the resources available to you to help minimize the stress in your busy life as a student.

Emily is in her fourth year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's a stern black coffee drinker and is a proud Acadienne. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find Emily listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation. If you ask her about parliamentary institutions, she won't stop talking.