Signals of stress
First off, stress "signals" fall into four categories: thoughts, feelings, behavior and physical symptoms. When you are under stress you may experience:
Anxiety, irritability, fear, moodiness, embarrassment
Self-criticism, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, forgetfulness or mental disorganization, preoccupation with the future, repetitive thoughts, fear of failure.
Stuttering or other speech difficulties, crying, acting impulsively, nervous laughter, "snapping" at friends, teeth grinding or jaw clenching, increased smoking, alcohol or other drug use, being prone to more accidents, increased or decreased appetite.
Tight muscles, cold or sweaty hands, headaches, back or neck problems, sleep disturbances, stomach distress, more colds and infections, fatigue, rapid breathing or pounding heart, trembling, dry mouth.
Sources of stress
As a college student, the greatest sources of stress tend to be relationships, academics, environment and lifestyle. For example, students have to deal with the stress of leaving home or commuting daily, managing finances, roommates, juggling a job with classes, meeting high standards, being lonely and relational conflict. However, stress can also come from exciting or positive events. Falling in love, preparing to study abroad, or buying a new car can be just as stressful.
It is crucial to recognize stressful situations, address them, and develop strategies to manage your stress.
1. Take a Deep Breath! Clear your mind and body by breathing deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
2. Manage Time - Resist the temptation to schedule things back-to-back. One of the greatest sources of stress is over commitment and poor time management.
3. Connect with Others - A good way to combat sadness, boredom and loneliness is to seek out activities or groups on campus.
4. Talk It Out - "Bottled up" emotions increase frustration and stress. Find a friend or try journaling.
5. Get Physical and Laugh - Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Academic life is often sedentary, and sitting around can mean letting stress accumulate in your body. Plus, everyone knows laughter is the best medicine.
6. Take Care of Your Body - Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress.
7. Avoid Self-Medication - Although alcohol and drugs may seem to offer temporary relief, these substances only mask or disguise problems. In the long run, behavior while "under the influence" increases rather than decreases stress.
8. Know Your Limits - A major source of stress is trying to control events or other people. Let go of any obsession with perfection.
9. Have a Good Cry - Crying during periods of stress can be a healthy way to bring relief to your anxiety, and it might prevent a headache or other physical consequences of "bottling" things up.
10. Invest in Yourself - Go get a pedicure, take a surf trip, read celebrity gossip magazines, or treat yourself to Dairy Queen...do whatever makes you feel alive. Too much studying leads to burnout.