Today’s lifestyle is much faster than before.
Everything is more intense, from the early days of primary school to the long office hours, people are competing with each other on so many levels. With this kind of intensity, the stress levels are through the roof in every possible way.
The sentence: „Ugh, I am so stressed!“ is the more common thing to say than: „Good morning!“ and what can we do to make it reverse? Is stress really that bad that we can’t avoid it? When you look at the numbers, you will see that, unfortunately, it is the truth.
The University of Reading in the United Kingdom has conducted a research and the results are devastating. The results show that there has been a 20% year-on-year increase in student’s demand for counselors help because of too much stress and anxiety. The same situation is repeating in the USA, where 27% of students experience „extreme stress“ during the school year and 34% of them expect an increase in stress due to the beginning of the new school year, says the American Psychological Association in Washington D.C.
If we want to fight the stress successfully, we have to know what we are dealing with. To learn more about stress and what can we to do make it go away, we have to start from the beginning.
What is stress and is stress really that bad for you?
The stress is not just something we create in our mind because we are bored, stress is a real reaction to the world around us and it is number 1 problem in our world. From the psychological point of view, stress is an abstract perception of the pressure around us with properly body’s response to it. When your body recognizes stress, the fight-or-flight response system is activated. That is your body preparing to run away from the threat or to stay and fight the threat. That system fills your body with hormones which increase your heart rate and the blood circulation so you can react as quickly as possible. This fight-or-flight response system is with us since the beginning and it is not something we should (or could) shut down entirely, but we can control it.
The reason why we feel so stressed out is the fact that fight-or-flight response system reacts to every stressor around us, no matter how small it is. You don’t have to be in a life-threatening situation to activate the fight-or-flight response system. Also, keep in mind that stress is subjective. If some situation is extremely stressful to you, it doesn’t mean it will be stressful to other persons and that is completely normal.
Types of stress
Like I have already mentioned, stress is a reaction to the stressors around us, no matter what kind. Since there are different types of stressors (which we will handle later in the article), there are different types of stress as well and not every type of stress is bad. There are 3 types of stress we can talk about: the acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress.
THE ACUTE STRESS
The acute stress is the mildest and most common stress form. The acute stress can be positive and negative and it is the stress which keeps you going. For example, you have a deadline you have to meet and you have to stay focused – that is where acute stress is coming. Everyday situations like an argument, that one big mistake you made in the final exam or even riding a rollercoaster in an amusement park. Those are all parts of acute stress. Every situation which is out of your routine will cause you stress, but that stress is a positive one and it is easy to live with it once you accept it.
EPISODIC ACUTE STRESS
Episodic acute stress is more serious stress and it is the one which lasts for some time and it happens frequently. You can recognize the person with episodic acute stress by their behavior. They are jumpy, anxious and often short-tempered. People who are more pessimistic and worry about almost everything will eventually have episodic acute stress unless they change their lifestyle.
Chronic stress is the most serious type of stress and it can cause health problems like heart diseases or even cancer. The chronic stress is actually an upgraded episodic acute stress caused by that one problem in someone’s life which couldn’t be fixed for years. The reasons to develop chronic stress are financial problems, problems in the family or marriage, problems with college, work, abuse…. People with chronic stress should ask for help to learn how to manage stress because this kind of stress is an extremely serious problem and it can lead to suicide.
What causes stress?
Stressors are situations which cause stress. The most stressful individuals can be found in colleges all over the world. Since stress is subjective to every person, it is hard to determine every possible situation which can cause stress, but we can single out most common stressors:
Finances – the number 1 on the list of stressors are the finances. Living in a big town where expenses are very high can cause most of the stress and then spreads it everywhere. The most common situation where finances are the cause of the stress is in student’s lifestyle. Students have to work while attending college because the cost tuitions or the dorms are too high. Working while attending college gives them less time to focus on the study and it makes them stressful.
Completely different lifestyle – Students tend to go into another city even state on a college and that will force them to change their life completely. Moving into a different location and with different people can be stressful. That means that you don’t know the place nor the people around and humans are social beings. Keeping people we love around keeps us stronger in fighting stress. The first year is always the hardest because you are on your own and you still have to meet other people which causes stress.
A day filled with obligations – being a student with a job is not easy because you can hardly find the time for yourself. One of the most common stressors is the inability to meet criteria for both work and college. Students who work don’t have enough time to study experience high amount of stress during finals.
Combining your social life with obligations – just like for the work and college, you have to have time for friends and even romantic relationships. Combining all those obligations in one day is extremely hard and it causes stress to numerous students.
The finals – students are at the college to earn a degree and most courses will expect from them to complete various tasks and projects with everyday class attending which can be overwhelming. The peak of that stress is the finals. The majority of students seek the help of a counselor exactly during finals.
How can you know if you are too stressed?
This question may seem unnecessary but most persons will realize they need help to handle stress when they are already too stressed. Feeling too stressed is something you can avoid by knowing to recognize the symptoms of an overstressed person. Just like the subjective feeling of stress, the effects of stress are also subjective. There are numerous symptoms, from physical, emotional, behavioral and ever cognitive symptoms which can affect you. I want you to acknowledge them all and think about them when you are feeling stressed.
Let’s talk about the most common symptoms, which are physical. One of the symptoms we have already mentioned in the introduction is increased heart rate and blood pressure. That is the way of your body saying I am ready to react. But, other symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension or even sweating are the signs of a too stressed body.
Emotional symptoms are usually connected to the physical ones. You feel tense in your entire body and because of that, your mind will feel stressed too. You will be jumpy, frustrated and you will alienate yourself from friends. When you feel too stressed out to see or even chat with your friend, do it anyway because it will help you relax.
Behavioral symptoms are more complexed. If you are feeling so stressed out you could eat a zebra, that is your body saying: “I am too stressed and I think that food will relax me”. Also, you can be on the other side of the extreme, when you don’t feel like eating. Both extremes are a sign of stress so don’t trust them and eat like every other day. Another behavioral symptom is forcing you to relax by using drugs and alcohol. It is not a solution and the day after will be even worse than the day before.
The one type of symptoms can assure you that stressed out state is not a state of mind you want to be and those are cognitive symptoms. The stressed out person has low concentration, inability to focus, difficulty with expressing themselves which can all result in bad finals. That is why stressing out is should not be an option for any student.
I know that all those symptoms are common and easy to spot, but not that easy to fight off. It always seems easier to say than do but, when you realize that stressing out is something you have to control, you will find the strength to do it. Remember, you are not alone and if you need help, ask for it. But, getting help is not the only solution one student has. There are more things you can do which are less invasive to your intimacy and if you don’t feel comfortable to share your thoughts with someone, try other ways before talking to a counselor. Some of the ways you will find later in the article and I am happy to show you as many solutions as I can because then you will see that stressing out doesn’t have to be your lifestyle.
How to reduce stress in your life?
There is a point in your life where you will feel overwhelmed and you will feel the need to reduce the stress, but you won’t be sure how. I want to show you the best way to reduce stress and it is through making some healthy life decision. What you must remember is that you can handle any stress there is. All you have to do is to prepare for it.
The first and the biggest step you can take in stress management is to realize you have a problem with stress. Think about your everyday obligations and try to single out situations which are causing you too much stress. That way, you can prepare yourself for a higher amount of stress before the situation occurs. But, preparation is not just taking deep breaths 10 minutes before, but not letting that situation get to you with changing the way of life.
Getting enough sleep is more important than you think. When you are well rested, your concentration and focus will be better and your mood will improve. People who are pulling an all-nighter to study, party or work can do that only for a period of time. If you have trouble falling asleep, try to relax with meditation, listening to peaceful music or take a long hot bath. Baths can do wonder to tired body and mind.
like I have already mentioned, overeating or not eating enough is a sign of stress. When you eat healthy food you will have enough energy to cope with the stress. Eating well will make your mind strong and focused so you will do everything faster. There is some food which can improve your concentration. If you are really aching for some snack, make it a healthy snack – almonds, peanuts or even pistachio.
exercise will do wonders to your mind and body because it will keep you focused on something else for 60 minutes. Also, it will keep you healthy and stress-free. If you have trouble with leaving the stress behind the door while you are exercising, that only means you need something more intense to do. Look around the campus and I am sure you will find many interesting clubs you can join. Another benefit of working out is spending all that negative energy and coming home tired, which means you will fall asleep fast.
sometimes you feel so stressed out that you want to take a nap. Ok, do it. But, don’t procrastinate. Avoiding your problems and chores will not make them go away, that will only make them bigger. Due to that, if you feel stressed, take the matter in your hand. Give yourself few hours and organize your entire stressful week and stick to the schedule. You will feel like you have your life under control and the stress will slowly decrease.
college as an institution is aware that some students are stressed out and it offers many ways to reduce stress right on the campus. There are numerous hobby rooms or recreational rooms where you can literally chill with other students, play on the foosball table (which is an excellent stress repellant) or even the air hockey table, meet other people or just be around people. There is actually a scientific proof that playing table games like foosball table will reduce stress and relax you. There are some campus who made stress-free rooms, meditation rooms which are designed to make you relax.
think of a stress as a necessary evil which keeps you going. Stress is a natural reaction which we can control. There is no way to completely be stress-free but there is a way to reduce stress and learn to live with it. Every human is strong enough to cope with the stress because stress is not toxic and it can’t hurt you unless you allow it.
if you feel like you don’t have the strength to handle your stress alone, ask for help. There are counselors and specialists on the campus who are there to help you and their only job is to make you feel more relaxed and safe. There is no shame in asking for help when you feel like everything is worse than you think.
Student’s life is a great way to prepare yourself for challenges of the adulthood. It is one of the most intense parts of life because you are at the crossroad of being a teen and being an adult. Remember, you are at the college because you decided to take this path and you will do whatever it takes to accomplish your life goals. When you finish this chapter of your life you will fill fulfilled and prepared for any challenge life gives you.