While college is usually associated with fun, friends and a stimulating academic environment, it can also be one of the most demanding situations a person can experience.
Trying to maintain good grades, a social life and work can be overwhelming. Stress is not always a bad thing, however. It can provide that extra boost in energy to get a person through midterms or a project. Excessive stress, on the other hand, can be detrimental both physically and mentally.
According to the American Psychological Association, stress occurs when “you perceive that demands placed on you — such as work, school or relationships — exceed your ability to cope.” Stress that is not managed can result in chronic issues such as anxiety, high blood pressure, heart conditions and insomnia. By finding ways to monitor that stress, several of these adverse health conditions can be reduced.
While there are various ways to cope with stress, people may have a tendency to turn to unhealthy habits that can temporarily reduce stress but are destructive in the long run. Many of these negative coping mechanisms include drinking alcohol, smoking, procrastinating, binge eating or using drugs.
These habits can be damaging over time. The APA has created a list of alternative, healthier techniques that have scientifically been shown to reduce stress in the short- and long-term:
Take a break from the stressor
Stepping away from the source of your stress, even for 20 minutes, can give you the time you need to gather your thoughts, relax and think through the issue. It is important not to completely ignore the stressor (your homework needs to be done), but taking the time to step back even for a few minutes can be helpful.
There are numerous studies that have shown exercise to be an effective way to reduce stress levels. It benefits not only your body, but also your mind. Your exercise routine does not have to be rigorous; even just taking a 15-minute walk or dancing-it-out to your favorite song can give you the immediate stress relief you are looking for.
Smile and laugh
According to the APA, our brains are interconnected with our emotions and facial expressions, so when people are stressed, oftentimes they hold a lot of that stress in their face. Smiling or laughing can help relieve the tension.
Have a support group
Sharing your feelings can help alleviate some of the stress you may be experiencing. However, it is important to keep in mind that you should speak to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or significant other. Speak with someone whom you feel will listen to you and understand you.
Mindfulness can help the mind and the body relax. It can help you see a different perspective and release emotions that may have been causing your body physical stress. Research has shown that meditating can reward you with the stress relief you need.
Remember, everyone is different and so are the ways they choose to cope with their stress. The above listed techniques are effective, but they are not the only ways to alleviate tension. Find what relaxes you and take time every now and then to do it. It is easy to find yourself in a never-ending cycle of homework, exams and deadlines, but it is important to take the time to relax and maintain your mental and physical well-being.