Stress. Everyone has it. Stress definitely has a negative connotation, but in reality we all need stress to keep us alive and functioning. National Stress Awareness Day was strategically placed on April 16th, the day after taxes are due. It is designed to be a day to acknowledge the things that cause you stress in your life and to begin to make strides in getting those stresses under control.
I think this is a perfect time to try to take control of the stresses in my life because it's the time in the semester when all of my exams are done, except for finals. I can finally take a breath and start to prepare for the things ahead.
It is really important to learn what things cause stress in your life and how to control those things before they become too overwhelming to bear. For example, I know that tests really stress me out. So when I know I have a test coming up, I make sure I prepare really well for it as to not tip my pre-test stress scale. That way, when it comes time to actually take the test, I feel under control and prepared, rather than panicked.
Stress is your body's way of rising to a challenging situation--also called your fight or flight response. It is an involuntary reaction in our body that has been around since mankind was born. It was used back in caveman days when a man came face-to-face with a predator he could either fight and kill it for food, or he could exercise his flight reaction and run. When a stressor has an effect on us like this, our body produces chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, which increases our blood pressure and heightens our senses. When these chemicals are released for an extended period of time, stress can become very overwhelming.
That is why it is imperative to recognize when your body is feeling stressed and take control of it before it takes control of you. Here are some tips on how to relieve stress:
- Don't over schedule; it's ok to have a full schedule but don't pile so much on your plate that you can't give each thing a fair amount of time.
- Be realistic; it is only going to stress you out more if you make a goal to accomplish twice as much as is humanly possible in a day.
- SLEEP! We all love sleep; college students and adults alike, but for some reason sleep is the first thing to be put on hold when we are going through stressful times. Your body needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night to rest and get ready for the following day, so instead of staying up late to finish a project, try to going to bed early and waking up earlier in the morning to get a head start to your day.
- Take time to relax. Whether it is a 20 minute power nap or just sitting down to read a magazine or watch some television, give your body a break periodically throughout your day and really try to take some deep breaths and chill out for a few minutes.
- Take things one step at a time. Attack big projects little-by-little with small breaks intermittently to reward yourself. This way you will feel like you have accomplished something and when it comes time for the big project to be completed, you won't be overwhelmed with work.
- Smile :) Having a positive attitude toward things will really improve your overall well-being along with your mood. Smiling and laughing are also natural stress relievers, so make sure you do something to make you smile or talk to someone who makes you laugh everyday!