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Everyone experiences stress at some point in life. A recent study revealed that stress is a major problem for 50 percent of Americans. College students are particularly susceptible to the problem due to their academic, personal and professional responsibilities.
Like many things in life, stress in moderation can be a good thing. An uncomfortable situation can motivate you to make positive changes. Excess stress, on the other hand, can take a significant toll on your physical and mental health.
Flight or Fight Response
Your body has an internal sentinel that sounds the alert when you encounter an emotional or physical challenge. This triggers a “flight or fight” response that enables you to handle emergencies.
The short-term benefit of this response is increased productivity, motivation, energy and focus. After your sentinel sounds the all-clear signal, your body returns to a relaxed state.
Chronic Stress Reaction
Chronic stress keeps your internal sentinel on high alert and causes headaches, anger, insomnia and psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety and panic disorders. It can cause you to feel overwhelmed and increase your risk for heart disease, fatigue, insomnia and ulcers. Some students experience strained relationships with their families and friends.
Most colleges have programs that are designed to help students manage stress because it is such a widespread problem. Research demonstrates that stress interferes with your ability to learn and retain information. There is a strong correlation between high stress levels and low GPAs.
Take Control of Your Emotions
Many students experience time management, financial and academic challenges, but some handle the problems more effectively. The best way to manage stress is to make proactive changes before it adversely affects your life, health and relationships.
Stress is inevitable, but what matters most is your response to the pressures in your life. You should develop realistic expectations and understand the things that you can and cannot change. Patience and flexibility enable you to reduce stress in areas of life that you cannot change. If you keep things in perspective, you can enjoy the college experience.
The first step is to identify your stressors. This will enable you to determine how to handle the challenges more effectively. You should also recognize your physical or emotional reactions. This can include increased heart rate, insomnia and muscle tension. When these reactions occur, they will alert you to modify your response to your problems.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes
You can take stress management classes, exercise or rearrange your class and work schedules as well as develop a network of supportive friends and family. Many students respond to stress by withdrawing from activities that they enjoy. Your schedule should include time to relax and have fun. Another option is to develop new interests and hobbies. Organization and time management can help you to plan ahead to avoid last minute pressures. If you procrastinate, develop a strategy to overcome the problem. This can include smart phone apps or a study partner to keep you on track to accomplish your goals.
A healthy diet, exercise and sufficient sleep enable your body to withstand stress. You should increase your dietary intake of fish, nuts and lean meats. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide vitamin C and other nutrients that reduce oxidative stress. Exercise increases chemical messengers that enhance energy levels and sense of wellbeing. Research also indicates that students who exercise have higher GPAs than their less active peers. Sleep reduces stress and anxiety, which impair academic performance. It enhances your brain’s ability to process and remember information. When you reduce your stress, you will improve your life and academic performance.