With the New Year upon us, my stress levels start to increase — I know I am not alone in this either. Stress affects each and everyone one of us in different ways. What is important is that you know what is affecting you and how you deal or do not deal with it.
A quick qualifying note: I am referring to excessive amounts of stress. A normal amount of stress is natural; it pushes our creative limits and drives us to achieve. It is when the stress becomes overwhelming that problems generally start to occur.
Additionally, one can experience physical responses to stress as well: headaches, increased blood pressure, upset stomach, and insomnia are all examples of how the body reacts to increase levels of stress.
Think through your answers to the following questions to help understand how you personally define stress and how you can take steps to decrease it.
- What are your stressors? Think about classes, work, your social networks. What areas in your life cause you the most stress?
- What are your emotional or physical responses to these stressors?
- How do you relax? What makes up a perfectly relaxing situation?
- How do you manage your time? Is there anything you want to change about this?
- Are you exercising enough, eating properly, getting enough sleep, and taking time for yourself? If you answered no, what can you do to change it?
Hopefully these questions will help start a dialogue about how you combat your own fight with stress. Personally, I find that writing out an organized to-do list and checking things off as I go helps me stay on top of my tasks and also provides some positive reinforcement. That little check mark is my own personal gold star –I’ve always liked getting a lot of gold stars. At the end of the day, I usually go for a quick run to clear my head, and then sit down with a good book or a favorite TV show. Taking time for myself helps me recharge my batteries.
Below are some other tips that may work to decrease stress:
- Exercise: A bike-ride, run, or a quick walk outside can help calm you down, even 10 minutes can make a difference.
- Visualization: closing your eyes and mediating for a few minutes. There are some great apps you can download for free that play calming music.
- Get together with a friend and laugh: chose someone who will listen and bring up your spirits – I am sure there is a good YouTube video that will make you laugh.
- Take your mind off it: turn on the TV, start a new show on Netflix, crack open a new book, listen to your favorite artist, or simply step away. Do something to remove the stressor for even a few minutes; it will help you refocus.
- Take a breath: research has shown that simply getting that extra boost of oxygen can help reduce stress and relieve tension.
So, what works for you?
If you find that you would like to seek help in dealing with stress, I urge you to contact your campus counseling center or speak with a counselor or other professional. There are many free or low-cost services out there that can lend an ear and help create a plan that works for your individual needs. Remember, it never hurts to ask for help.