By: Alexa Mandes
Stress is an everyday part of working toward a dream as a student. We stress about tests, assignments, projects, getting a parking spot in time, and about what we’re going to do after our time at Camden County is finished. The stresses of small daily activities make it hard to calm our minds. According to the MayoClinic website, our brains are hard-wired to deal with stress and as we feel a threat, a burst of hormones runs through our bodies creating the fight-or-flight response. After the threat dissipates, our bodies should return to normal, but when the stress seems never-ending, our bodies cannot relax. The constant running of hormones on red alert can lead to an overwhelming feeling, all the way to serious health problems in the future. Learning about stress management now can keep the weight off your shoulders and your eye on your goals.
One helpful way to relieve stress would be to take the stress management class that is offered here, at Camden County. The goal of the course is to learn about stressors and how to effectively cope with their effects. This gives four months of different ways to deal with stress that you can try out until you find the one that’s right for you. You also get three credits for taking it!
Different types of exercise and relaxation techniques are out there specifically for stress management. Relaxation techniques are not about finding a quiet spot to read or be on your own, it’s about decreasing the damage already done by the stress. Also according to the MayoClinic, there are many health benefits to finding the time for relaxation including: slowing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, slowing your breathing rate, increasing blood flow to major muscles, reducing muscle tension, and chronic pain, improving concentration, reducing anger and frustration, and boosting confidence to handle problems.
There are three main types of relaxation techniques. If you practice one regularly, you could really reap the benefits. The first technique is called autogenic relaxation. “In this relaxation technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. You repeat words or suggestions in your mind to help you relax and reduce muscle tension” (www.mayoclinic.com).
The second technique is called progressive muscle relaxation. “In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. One method is to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat” (www.mayoclinic.com).
The third technique is visualization. “In this relaxation technique, you form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation. During visualization, try to use as many senses as you can, including smell, sight, sound and touch (MayoClinic). For example, picture yourself on a much needed vacation away from your classes. “You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot and loosen any tight clothing.”
Other common techniques include: yoga, tai chi, listening to music, meditation, hypnosis, and massage. Choosing one of these techniques and sticking with it, not turning it into another stressor is important. Practicing is the only way to truly obtain the benefits of these techniques. You could find yourself handling situations that would normally stress you out in a completely different way.
There are also more mental and emotional ways to deal with stress. For these tips, the way to start is to identify the factors causing you stress. It’s not always something of detrimental proportions that does this. The everyday small hassles that affect everyone differently are what you need to find. To do this you can keep a stress journal. For one week, write down every situation that gives you a negative physical, emotional, or mental response. Give as many details as possible such as, where you were, how you felt, the day and time, a description of what happened, and rate it on a scale of 1-5 on how intense the stress was.
Another option is to make a list of all the demands on your time and energy for one week. Also rate these on a scale of 1-5 on how intense each is. When the list or journal is complete look over it and pay particular attention to the stressors ranked as a 5. Work on finding a resolution to one of these high stress situations. The MayoClinic says, “That means identifying and exploring the problem, looking for ways to resolve it, and selecting and implementing a solution.”
Suppose, for instance, you are usually late to work when coming straight from class because of traffic. Try talking to your boss and letting him know about the situation. Maybe he or she will let you come in later or switch around your schedule.
Improving time management skills is also a very important aspect to reducing stress. Having good time management can help identify goals and priorities and minimize stress. Tips for this include, creating realistic goals for yourself and setting regular progress reviews. De-cluttering your life includes de-cluttering your desk; throw away unimportant papers. Also, prepare a master list of tasks. In order of importance, go over the list daily and work on completing some tasks. Using a planner could help. Listing certain tasks for certain days, in order to not overwhelm yourself and having everything you need to do in one place can give you a piece of mind. For especially important tasks, blocking off an uninterrupted time to get these done is another way to time manage.
There are many ways to reduce stress. The important thing is to find the one that’s right for you and stick with it. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with daily stressors. Keep in mind that you’re only human and do one task at a time, thinking about only that one task. Thinking of multiple things that need to get done at once could drive anyone crazy. Students have it hard, but the reward of an A on an essay or a “good job” from your boss is good enough to keep us going.
“Coping with stress – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. 26 June 2008. Web. 12 Feb. 2010.
“Stress management – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. 19 May 2009. Web. 12 Feb. 2010.