Maybe you thought you had time between classes to run home and take a nap, since you only got five hours of sleep last night. Then, you realized you had a paper due in your next class, and you haven’t even started it yet.
Stress is something all college students deal with, some of us better than others. But what exactly is stress and how does it affect your ability to perform?
The American Institute of Stress outlines four types of stress. Acute stress sends our bodies into the “fight or flight” response where breathing and heart rate increase and blood is forced out to the muscles, allowing quick reactions to potential threats.
Chronic stress impacts us over a long period of time. It can be caused by classes, jobs, relationships, societal pressures, financial burdens and many other factors. We tend to ignore chronic stress, which eventually dampens our immune system and makes us vulnerable to infection and disease.
Eustress is what we associate with positive outcomes, for example, finishing a paper for class before it is due. The last kind of stress is distress, which we associate with negative consequences, such as running out of time to finish an assignment, breaking up with a partner, losing money or various other scenarios.
Not all stress is bad. A fire alarm ignites a stress response in yourself to help you get out of harm’s way. We would consider this an acute eustress response.
Stress is inevitable, but when does it go from being something helpful to something that ultimately hurts us? This brings us back to chronic stress and distress. According to the American Psychological Association, people who are chronically stressed tend to be more likely to suffer from insomnia, anxiety and depression. Creating a stress-management plan can be vital for coping with stress in a busy college life.
Don’t be discouraged if you are so stressed you don’t know what to do. Take a deep breath. Take a couple.
Deep breathing has been a proven way to increase the relaxation response, which is the body’s natural cue to calm itself down — decreased heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing and muscle tension.
Check out this list for other tips to decrease stress:
1) Keep a smile and a positive attitude.
2) Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
3) Exercise regularly.
4) Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
5) Take short breaks from studying.
6) Communicate with friends, family and professors about what is causing your stress.
In addition to the self-help tools above, the University of Idaho offers resources for stress management. Campus partners will host various “de-stress” activities during dead week to help students take time for themselves — check uidaho.edu/vandalhealthed for the complete schedule in the next few weeks.
You can also schedule an appointment at the Counseling & Testing Center to speak with a knowledgeable counselor about your stress. They also offer a 24-hour crisis line at (208) 885-6716.
The Student Recreation Center is a good place to get in a workout and is home to the Vandal Health Ed Resource Room where you can talk with certified peer educators about resources and self-help stress management tips.
Samuel Berg is a certified peer educator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org