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TAKING STOCK OF STRESS

You need stress in your life! Does that surprise you? Perhaps so, but it is quite true. Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavor, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. It is important for your health that you find the optimal level of stress that you can manage.

Stress is a unique and personal experience for each of us. So personal, in fact, that what may be relaxing to you, may be stressful to another person. Your personal stress requirements and the amount which you can tolerate before you become distressed changes with your lifestyle and your age.

SOURCES OF STRESS

Being a college student, the greatest source of your stress is likely to come from relationships, academic and social situations; environment or lifestyle. In addition to these, it is common for some students to feel overwhelmed and anxious about wasting time, meeting high standards or being lonely. A critical step in coping with stress is first to take stock of the stressors in your life. If you are unsure about the level of stress in your life, complete the Student Stress Scale. After you have identified the sources of your stress, decide those which you can influence and control and those you cannot. The stress that is unavoidable may be better managed by incorporating stress management techniques into your life.



STRESS MANAGEMENT

Here are some suggestions for ways to handle stress. As you begin to understand more about how stress affects you as an individual, you will come up with your own ideas to help relieve tension.

TRY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.

When you are nervous, angry or upset, release the pressure through exercise or physical activity. Running, walking, playing tennis or working in the garden are just some of the activities you might try. Physical exercise may relieve that "uptight" feeling, relax you, and hopefully energize you. Remember, your body and mind work together.

SHARE YOUR FEELINGS.

It helps to talk to someone about your concerns and worries. Perhaps a friend, family member, teacher or counselor can help you see your problem in a different light. If you feel your problem is serious you should seek professional help from a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. Knowing when to ask for help may avoid more serious problems later.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS.

If a problem is beyond your control and cannot be changed at the moment, don't fight the situation. Learn to accept what is - for now - until such time when you can change it.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

You are special. Get enough rest and eat well-balanced, nutritious meals. If you are irritable and tense from lack of sleep or if you are not eating correctly, you will be less able to deal with stressful situations.

MAKE TIME FOR FUN.

Schedule time for both work and recreation. Play can be as important to your well-being as work; you need a break from your daily routine to just relax and have fun.

BE A PARTICIPANT.

One way to keep from getting bored, sad and lonely is to seek out activities. Being alone can be good for you but feeling lonely is different. You may wish to get involved and become a participant. Offer your services in neighborhood or volunteer organizations. Help yourself by helping other people.

CHECK OFF YOUR TASKS.

Trying to take care of everything at once can seem overwhelming, and, as a result, you may not accomplish anything. Instead, make a list of what tasks you have to do, then do one at a time, checking them off as they're completed. Give priority to the most important ones and do them first.

MUST YOU ALWAYS BE RIGHT?

Do other people upset you - particularly when they don't do things your way? Try cooperation instead of confrontation. A little give and take on both sides may reduce the strain and make you feel more comfortable.

IT'S OK TO CRY.

A good cry can be a healthy way to bring relief to your anxiety, and it might prevent a headache or other physical consequences. Take some deep breaths; they also release tension.

CREATE A QUIET SCENE.

You can't always run away, but you can dream. A quiet country scene painted mentally, or on canvas, can take you out of the turmoil of a stressful situation. Change the scene by reading a good book or playing relaxing music to create a sense of peace and tranquility.

AVOID SELF-MEDICATION.

Alcohol and other drugs do not remove the conditions that cause stress. In fact, they may be habit-forming and create more stress than they take away. Medications should be taken only on the advice of your doctor.



REFERENCES:

Smith, S. and C. Smith. (1988). The college student's health guide. Los Altos, CA: Westchester.

Bremer, B. (1984). Stress management. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois.

Kopolow, G. (1987). Plain talk about handling stress. DHHS Publication. No. (ADM) 87-502.

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