Managing your studies and a social life have you in shambles? You are not the only one. With the help of these “Grown-ish” gifs, learn how to navigate the rest of the semester in a good space. But first, let’s get on the same page about the situation at hand. Despite what your Instagram feed shows, stress is not selective. It affects everyone, especially during collegiate years; so don’t be ashamed of feeling overwhelmed. Instead, learn about the different causes and effects of stress and use that knowledge to help you manage it.
Let’s start with the basics.
Stress is the body’s natural survival response when faced with external pressures. It can manifest throughout all parts of your body, from your cognitive abilities to poor sleeping habits to diminished bone density. The gag is, your immune system, brain and heart all take hits as a result of long-standing stress. If you ideally would like to avoid future medical bills stripping you of your savings and peace, learning how to manage stress could literally be a lifesaver.
Good vs bad Stress…wait, there’s good stress?
The pressures that your body reacts to aren’t just in response to negative situations but can include positive stressors, such as exercise, excitement and positive growth in your life. These beneficial stressors are forms of “eustress,” and can actually improve your overall health. You can also feel eustress with positive things, like falling in love. Chances are you’ll enjoy these types of stressors.
While beneficial stressors can enhance your life, the negative stressors, unfortunately, are not always avoidable. The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to respond to them in healthy manners that do not hold you back from enjoying the things you love.
Do you feel it?
Consider the signs of stress in four categories: feelings, thoughts, behaviors and physical changes. Do you feel anxious, irritable or moody? Do you have thoughts of excessive self-criticism, fear, failure or having a hard time making decisions? Is your appetite increasing or decreasing? Are you more accident prone, using substances to cope or find yourself snapping at people around you? Is your sleep pattern disrupted by factors that are not external? Do you experience headaches, fatigue or chest pains? Not to sound like a drug warning commercial but any of these things happening outside of the usual for you can be a warning sign. Try to recognize when your stress levels are rising and reflect on what may be the cause of those rising stress levels.
So if it’s going to happen regardless, what should I do about it?
Glad you asked. In some cases, you may be able to eliminate a stressor or at least change the way that you react to it. Utilizing available resources, such as the Student Health Services Counseling Center or our ThriveWell program, are great ways to get started. With the right response, some stressors can be turned into positive stressors. Here are a few tactics to help you get started:
Exercise: Find activities that suit you best to release endorphins in your body through various workouts like running, yoga, or playing an intramural sport.
Stress-Relieving Activities: In addition to exercising, stress-relieving activities can include drawing, journaling or even volunteering. The activity will differ from person to person, but the idea is the same: Doing things you like will help you cope with those you don’t like.
Explore Outside: Look up from your phone screen and go beyond your four walls by taking a walk outside or finding a bench to do your work for the day…just be sure to charge your devices!
Take A Self-Love Break: Don’t forget to take a break from everything and focus on yourself for a bit. You deserve it. Done right, self-love can be a preventative measure against loads of potential negative stressors.
Access Your Higher Self: Putting things into perspective can be a form of healing in and of itself. It allows you to take a step back and have an objective view of the bigger picture. Consider prayer, meditation or helping others.
Changing your stressor can also include putting an optimistic spin on situations that are otherwise out of your control. Adjust your expectations and have an attitude of gratitude. Also consider stress-preventing behaviors to practice such as forgiveness, rest or labeling your food in the fridge.
The college years can be rough, and the semesters could seem more brutal as you go along, but now is the perfect time to prepare for your future and set your mental health up for success. Learning to identify and manage your negative stressors now can save you lots of hardship in the future. NC State and its resources create a safe space to learn how to figure out what habits work best for you.
ThriveWell has workshops and wellness coaches that cover stress management.
Check with the counseling center for support groups and individual counseling.