Learn About Stress
What is Stress?
Stress is a person's response to any situation or event that requires adjustment or change. We often think of stress only in terms of negative events, but stressors can be positive as well. Stress is a natural response to a threatening situation. The result has more to do with the interpretation than it does with the stressor itself. For example, one student may see failing an exam as a warning to seek help while another student sees this event as a terminal blow to his or her life plans.
How is College Stressful?
During their college years students experience constant challenge and demand for adjustment and change. Along with academic pressures, students are seeking independence and autonomy from their parents and responsibility for themselves, acceptance from their peers in a world of mixed values, and more intimate relationships. At ISU many non-traditional students are facing traditional problems of everyday life while trying to earn a degree. Financial worries, juggling the demands of family and children, and working are just a few additional stressors these students face.
How Does Stress Affect You?
Stress impacts each person differently. The effects of stress will usually show up in four different spheres: physically, emotionally, behaviorally and mentally. Physically, the body reacts to threat with an increased adrenaline flow. Muscles become tensed and heart rate and respiration are increased. Emotionally, you may experience anxiety, irritability, sadness and depression, or extreme happiness and exhilaration. Behaviorally, you may experience reduced physical coordination and control, sleeplessness, and irrational behavior. Mentally, you may have a severe reduction in your ability to concentrate, store information in memory and solve mental problems.
"Test anxiety" is due to the brain's reduced ability to process information while under severe stress. This can be of particular concern to college students.
How Do I Eliminate Stress?
Stress is a necessary part of life. We cannot and would not want to eliminate all sources of stress. Students can, however, learn to cope more effectively with stressors by employing effective physical, behavioral, and cognitive coping strategies.
Physically, one strategy is to learn to relax. With relaxation training, which is offered at University Counseling and Testing Service and below in our Relax Your Mind Virtual Library, students can learn to counteract the stress response and enhance their ability to think more clearly. Meditation is another effective method of achieving relaxation. Regular exercise is another physical coping and stress reduction technique. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is another technique.
There are a number of behavioral strategies which can be used to reduce the intensity of stress. Time management is a particularly effective method. Making a schedule of available time and prioritizing demands can put some sense of structure into a seemingly overwhelming semester. It is also important to establish realistic and achievable goals and to maintain a balance between academic, work, and social commitments.
One of the most important strategies for reducing stress is to examine the thoughts and beliefs we have about what is causing the stress. Putting the situation into its proper perspective reduces the perceived threat that it poses. Ask yourself, "What is the worst that could happen?" Usually the "worst" is not as bad as it first seems.
Finally, perhaps the best coping strategy is to talk over your problems with a good friend or counselor. Discussing your problems with someone can greatly reduce the tension you feel and provide you with valuable insight into the situation. University Counseling and Testing Service has a professional counseling staff that can help you to cope with the demands of academic life. Call us at (208) 282-2130 or drop in today for more information.