Stress is simply the body's non-specific response to any demand made on it. Stress is not by definition synonymous with nervous tensions or anxiety. Rather, it provides the means to express talents and energies and pursue happiness. It can also cause exhaustion and illness, either physical or psychological, and heart attacks or accidents. The important thing to remember about stress is that certain forms are normal and essential. The more proactive we are with stress in our lives, the better chance we have of keeping a sense of balance and making sure the stress doesn't turn into over-stress.
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General Stress Information:
- Tight deadline or too many deadlines
- Pressure from superiors
- Lack of acknowledgment for good performance
- Inability to work with colleagues
- Oral presentations
- Trouble managing priorities
- Accountability for budgets
- Long hours
- Thinking about how much needs to be accomplished
- Inability to adapt or change
- Exhausting physical labor
- Changes in work schedules
- Balancing home/family and work/school priorities
Impact of Stress
Many aspects of life cause stress and can impact your physical and emotional health. Stress impacts everyone in a unique way and everyone deals with stress differently. One may experience a range of consequences from stress, from mild to severe. How stress impacts one person may not affect another. Some examples of stress impacts include:
- Lower levels of self-esteem
- Weight issues
- Dropout of school
- Practice of unhealthy behaviors, including poor nutrition, drugs, and alcohol
- General irritability
- Anxiety/anxious feelings for no specific reason
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Body aches/pains, especially in the neck and/or lower back
Coping with Stress
There are various ways to cope with stress. Depending on your life situation, there are different tactics to controlling stress and channeling in ways that help you become a more productive person. The more proactive we are with stress in our lives, the better chance we have of keeping a sense of balance and making sure the stress doesn't turn into over-stress. College and job stress can often overlap, especially if you are working while in school. College should be enjoyed, not endured. Similarly, a job can be enjoyable. The trick is keeping stress under control.
The concept of stress is often confused with challenge, but these concepts are not the same. Challenge energizes us psychologically and physically and it motivates us to learn new skills and master jobs and tasks. When a challenge is met, we feel relaxed and satisfied. Thus, challenge is an important ingredient for healthy and productive work. The importance of challenge in our work lives is probably what people are referring to when they say "a little bit of stress is good for you."
Here are some tips to cope with stress:
- Create a schedule and prioritize
- Plan your activities and be sure to allow yourself the time you need to get work done. It is best to over-estimate than having to stay up all night and rushing to finish a project or assignment. Separate tasks into three groups: essential, important and trivial. Focus on the first two and ignore the third to help set priorities. Setting realistic goals is also helpful since attainable goals are more encouraging.
- Tackle the biggest task first
- By starting with the biggest task, you are likely to have more energy (usually at the start of the day) which will increase your chance of success. Do the task early and you will also create momentum to continue accomplishing other tasks. Breaking up big tasks into smaller ones can help you feel more in control of a project as well.
- Regularly exercise
- Walking when you can, taking workout classes, or exercising for at least 10 minutes a day can elevate your mood, release tension, and keep you healthy. Exercise helps refresh your mind which can lead to alternative and creative solutions and possibilities.
- Reduce alcohol and drug use
- These substances may add to headaches, decrease coping mechanisms, and add to depression. Avoiding alcohol and drugs can also increase stress levels as they can cause health issues and legal problems.
- Take care of your body
- Staying up late, eating fast food frequently, and drinking energy drinks may make you feel more productive for awhile, but can ultimately cause more problems in the long-run. Eating right and getting adequate rest can keep stress away.
- Integrate life activities
- Maybe you get inspired watching late night television and feel the urge to send out emails to friends you've been meaning to contact. Whatever the activity, do it when you are able and willing. By doing things this way, you allow for the ebb and flow of life to run its course. Additionally, get involved with groups and clubs. Engaging with others and doing something you like can be an excellent remedy for college loneliness and relieve stress.
- Talk to someone
- Talk to a trusted friend, family member, colleague or a counselor to express your feelings and explain your stressors. Just talking may help you gain perspective and provide the outlet to start prioritizing tasks and reducing stress. Visit the Counseling Center website to make an appointment or get more information.
Leading a More Relaxed Life
Coping with stress is important for having a more relaxed life. A sense of relaxation can be diminished when there are too many "to do" lists running through your head. To help relax, try sitting by yourself for a few minutes and planning out your day before it begins. Planning ahead and prioritizing can help you relax and decreases the chance of sending your body back into stress mode. Getting regular exercise, gentle stretching, meditation and massages can all help you lead a more relaxed life.
Ready to learn more about the stress in your life? Take one of these quizzes to gauge your stress levels and your stress IQ!
For more information about stress, visit MayoClinic.