The term ‘stress’ is actually neutral and it denotes a response to any demand. If that response is unhelpful in meeting the demand or challenge then aspects of your life need to be addressed to solve the problem. On the other hand, if you are being chased by a tiger, that extra adrenalin rush that enables you to run faster than ever before is an appropriate stress response.
While the latter response is essential to survival and could save your life, the former is an overreaction that can affect your studies and even lead to illness. To begin tackling the way you cope with stress look first at situations you perceive as stressful.
There is a long list of events that cause stress and that can be ordered into four main categories: loss, major life changes, failure, and additional responsibilities. Moving to your university town and beginning degree studies is a major change. Not achieving as well as you expected, is perceived failure. I say ‘perceived’ because this is how a person may respond to a grade that is lower than their average and yet it may still be an excellent grade for a first essay in a new and challenging learning environment. We each respond differently to stressful situations but there are a few things we can do to cope.
Whether you are a pessimist or an optimist, easily flustered or always cool, being realistic and honest with yourself is the first step to stress management. Know where your weaknesses lie in coping strategies.
Tips for lessening stress
Accept help when it is offered. This could be anything from moving furniture to academic advice. Maintain discipline in your study schedule so you do not fall behind on work. With the pressure of deadlines a pile of back work can be a major source of stress. Money issues on a slim budget are to be avoided. Budget carefully and do not overspend. Of course you also want to enjoy your time at college or university and occasionally you will want to splash out but do not make it a regular occurrence.
Stress has a physical effect on our bodies including shallow breathing, tension in the muscles, possible headaches, and sleeplessness. Always leave time on your schedule for a daily practice of exercise, including breathing techniques, relaxation, and a walk or some sport. Your schedule is important, do not leave it to chance and do not burden yourself with more commitments than you can reasonably meet. Good time management is essential to stress management and the clue here is to remember that you are a whole person with intellect, body, emotions, and soul. Neglecting any of these areas of your life can weaken your reserves for coping with stress. Seek a balanced schedule.
There are times in life for which we feel unprepared. The loss of a family member or the end of a relationship are examples. Emotions can be overpowering and all your stress management techniques may be of little use. However, if they have become good practice and habitual then they will serve as a support. If you have taken note of all the above tips then you will not be burdened by avoidable stress should the unavoidable come your way? A few good friends who are willing to listen and help are invaluable and do not be afraid to seek out a sympathetic tutor or, if you are religious, a person of faith for advice.
Friendship and activity
Even if you are not an extrovert cultivate some good friendships and participate in extra-curricular activity. There is nothing like a good chat, or shared fun and laughter to alleviate stress. Take care of yourself and each other, create a pleasant home away from home and stress is less likely to overwhelm you. If it does then do not hesitate to seek help.