By Becca Vu, UW Sophomore
Have no fear, we’ll save you from stress this year!
With upcoming projects, midterms, and finals stacked upon relationships and personal issues, stress can pop up in some shape or form for college students. But don’t worry, we have some suggestions for you that may help ease some of your anxieties!
What is stress?
Stress is “the feeling of emotional tension, overwhelm, or feeling unable to cope.” Stress affects us mentally and physically and biologically, it causes the body to release chemicals and hormones in the brain that activate certain parts of the brain. One example is when we are highly stressed, we produce “the stress hormone,” also known as cortisol. Though it can be beneficial for a short period, when prolonged, it can develop into chronic stress which can lead to the risk of developing anxiety disorders, depression, or pain such as muscle tension.
How to recognize the signs of stress?
There are multiple ways that a person could recognize stress. This could include difficulty breathing, mood changes, sleep problems, pain, feeling sick, inability to concentrate, or excessive changes in one’s usual schedule.
What are ways you can deal with stress?
Have no fear! There are a variety of options in ways you can deal with stress! The possibilities are endless and it all depends on who you are and your preferences. Here are some options that you can try out.
Meditation includes relaxation techniques for the mind and body. This activity includes deep breathing and maintaining awareness or focusing on something in particular, depending on the type of meditation the one in practice decides to execute. Meditation can help people gain new perspectives on the situation causing them stress, decrease negative emotions that come along with stress, and help clear the mind of the present stressors by bringing a relaxed state of mind. Along with reducing stress, meditation reaps the health benefits of managing anxiety, depression, sleep quality, and lower risks of high blood pressure.
Linked below are different types of practiced meditation that can be exercised to reduce stress according to The Mayo Clinic:
- Breathing Exercises (Source 2)
Power 10 — Take 10 breaths. Focusing on feelings of anxiety and stress while inhaling and exhaling for 6 seconds.
Heart boost — Think about the best moments of your life and positive things as you inhale. Release any negative emotions and feelings as you exhale. Positive emotion with an inhalation paired with inhales will make your heart shift rhythms to improve your state of mind.
Heart shifting — Take three sets of five breaths (4 second inhale and 6 second exhale). The first five breaths will be focused on negative feelings Here you’ll take three sets of five breaths with a 4-second inhale and a 6-second exhale. During the first five breaths, focus on negative emotions and then let them go with each exhale. The second set of breaths will be focused on clearing your mind and on the inhale and exhales. The final focus will be on things, people and objects that you love, and expelling negative emotions.
2. Different types of Meditation (Source 7)
Guided meditation- This can also be under the umbrella of guided imagery or visualization. Like the name, this type of meditation will ask you to form mental images of situations and places that you find calming or relaxing.
Focusing- Focus on using as many of your sense as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds, and textures. This could be led by a guide.
Mantra meditation- In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought, or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
Mindfulness meditation- This type of meditation is based on being mindful or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.
Exercise is another way to cope with stress and reduce its effects. Exercise pumps endorphins, chemicals that the bodies produce to relieve stress and improve one’s mood. Exercise also helps the body relieve some of the negative effects on the body, for example, protecting the cardiovascular, immune, and digestive systems. This includes lowering the risk of heart disease and lowering blood pressure, strengthening the heart, and also helping maintain weight. Outside physical health, exercise can aid in improving sleep quality.
Exercise also looks different for everybody, so remember that any sort of physical activity will benefit the practitioner uniquely.
Here are some ideas to incorporate exercise into daily life:
- Taking a walk
- Going for a run
Listening to Music
Listening to music is a pastime that college students often take part in daily, but it can also decrease their levels of stress. Music, like exercise, also releases endorphins and can treat other mental health issues as well. Listening to music also reduces burnout, which is especially important if it is midterm or finals season. Music also helps distract from stressors in everyday life and reduces depression levels.
The different types of music can help you in times of different moods. Make sure to check out these playlists for some ideas!
Connecting with Others
Social support is more important than we think! Humans are social beings — we are meant to be with other people. Talking with others can help one relieve stress. Talking leads to catharsis, also known as a feeling of relief. Sharing or talking with others about what’s bothering you can also lead to new solutions due to new perspectives on your daily stressors. There is also an association between a relative amount of social support and a hormone increase of oxytocin, which is a hormone that decreases anxiety levels.
Here are some ways that you can increase social interaction. Remember, this is only based on your comfort level!
- Initiate interactions with friends and family
- Join a community (ie clubs)
- Create study groups
- Have a movie night or group dinner
Maintain a Normal Schedule
This will provide a sense of stability in this stress-inducing time! Try to have a relatively scheduled eating time with well-balanced meals, sleeping a plentiful amount, and exercising. This will keep you in a routine and give you something to fall back on when the daily stressors of life keep pulling you every which way.
Remember, coping with stress looks different for everyone! Do what you feel works best for you!
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