There are many different people with various walks of life enrolled here at CCBC. Resilient single mothers take classes and work on the side to support their child. Many students maintain multiple jobs to support themselves and pay for college. Some didn’t even have the opportunity to start until they were mid-aged. Veterans returning from tours are doing their best to reintegrate into our society. International students must carefully weave through laws and visas to be here. We all have our motivations for striving towards an education, but no one on this earth is a stranger to stress. Although stress in small amounts (also known is eustress) can be beneficial for the body, most of us tend to tackle a great deal of stress trying to balance our lives and responsibilities. You’ve more than likely experienced a burnout trying to keep it together, and it’s normal, but it’s not healthy. In fact, putting a blanket or a cover on your stress and pretending like everything is all good, is causing harm to your body. According to The American Institute of Stress:
- Stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human illness and diseases
- 3 out of 4 doctor visits are for stress-related ailments
- Stress increases the risk of heart disease by 40%, and increases the risk of stroke by a whopping 50%
- Stress shrinks the brain by reducing grey matter in regions tied to emotional and psychological functions
- Stress-related ailments cost the nation $300 billion every year in medical bills and lost productivity
If you are looking at the gif above and you’re thinking “I can relate” you might need to develop a good coping mechanism or 2. There are many ways to curb your stress levels, and different techniques work better for some than others. Here is a small list of methods I practice to cope with my crippling moments of intense stress.
MAKE HEALTHIER CHOICES ON YOUR PLATE
According to The American Institute of Stress, 40% of stressed people overeat or eat unhealthy foods. It may be difficult to eat healthy when you live a fast-paced lifestyle, but you should take the time to make better choices for the sake of your health. You don’t have to eat fresh baby spinach every single meal, but trying to eat better here and there at the very least is going to help kick the feeling of fatigue and have you feeling more energized and ready to kick butt!
GET THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF SLEEP
This is something I think a fair amount of college students struggle with. I definitely do. The American Institute of Stress also states that 44% of people who are stressed lose sleep every night. Maybe you think you are functioning just fine with 3-5 hours of sleep, but it’s causing havoc on your body. According to the CDC, you should be striving for at least 7 hours of sleep every night. I know for some it’s tough, especially when you use the wee hours of the night to work on assignments and study, but at the very least, get a good night’s rest the day before an exam. Having a refreshed mind and body will help you perform better.
SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR EXTREME STRESS
If you are dealing with extreme stress that feels crippling with no relief in sight, or a combination of stress and physical pain, or another mental health issue such as depression, one should consider seeking medical assistance. Worst case scenario is that the stress is just a symptom of something larger, but maybe someone just needs a therapist to talk to or a medication that helps them cope better with stress. There is nothing wrong with looking for help and the negative stigma around mental health needs to end. I personally see a psychiatrist and a therapist on a monthly basis and it has helped me tremendously.
GO OUTSIDE MORE OFTEN
Something about nature just heals and refreshes the mind. According to research by the University of Michigan “a now classic study of patients who underwent gallbladder surgery; half had a view of trees and half had a view of a wall. According to the physician who conducted the study, Robert Ulrich, the patients with the view of trees tolerated pain better, appeared to nurses to have fewer negative effects, and spent less time in a hospital.” Grab a picnic blanket and study under a tree, or instead of eating inside, eat outside.
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES
A supporting family member, friend, or significant other will be able to do wonders on your stress levels and morale. Studies show that people with fewer connections tend to suffer more from depression and anxiety. Taking a little time to cuddle with your four-legged babies, bake cookies with your child, grab a quick bite with a good friend, or go to the movies with a significant other will relieve stress and give you a sense of belonging. Make some time for others if you currently don’t.
TAKE THE TIME TO BREATHE
You need to leave a little time for yourself. If you can only commit to a couple minutes, try breathing exercises. There are so many websites that provide great breathing techniques and they are incredibly easy to learn and execute. Michigan Medicine (from the University of Michigan) states that “deep breathing sends calming messages to the brain, then sends these messages to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.” It’ll be worth your while to at least attempt a breathing technique or two and see if this quick fix works for you.