Stress is the wear and tear on the body caused by external events combined with the way we cope with those events. Any change, positive or negative, can cause stress. External events that cause stress for college students are:
- Being away from home
- Financial pressures
- Peer relationships with friends, roommates and romantic partners
- Being in a new environment
- Future uncertainties
However, it is not the external events alone that cause stress. The way we think about and react to these events influences whether we become stressed. This means we have the potential to reduce our stress through positive coping strategies.
When we are stressed, the body reacts by triggering what is called the “fight or flight response,” which involves a series of physiological events that prepare us to be on high alert for what the body perceives to be danger in our environment. This fight or flight response is linked to early survival of the human species against attack. In the days of the cave people, this automatic response to danger worked well. In our 21st century lives we do not need to fight or flee to survive, but the body continues to respond to stress in this way unless we learn how to reduce our stress. If we have chronic stress, then the body may be in a constant state of alert, causing long term physical, emotional and behavioral consequences. Some of the ways that stress can impact us are:
Muscle pain or tension
Loss of appetite
Susceptibility to illnesses
Increased alcohol or drug use
Anxiety or feeling nervous
Irritability or anger outbursts
Feeling overly emotional
Worrying about the future
Preoccupation with thoughts or tasks
Difficulty making decision
Loss of mental clarity
Practice relaxation and/or meditation
- Relaxation and meditation activate the relaxation response of the nervous system.
- Regular practice of relaxation and meditation will improve your mental clarity, boost your immunity to illnesses and increase feelings of well-being.
Drink no or only one caffeinated beverage
- Caffeine increases nervousness.
- If you must drink caffeine, drink it before 2:00 pm so it does not interfere with sleep and do not drink more than one cup before a stressful event, such as an exam.
- Exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce your stress.
- Try to get a combination of stretching, strengthening and aerobic exercise, but anything is better than nothing.
Get good sleep
- Develop good sleep habits by winding down an hour before bedtime.
- Avoid excitement from things like horror films or hip-hop music just before bed.
Eat less sugar and have regular meals
- Sugar amps you up and can increase jitteriness.
- Lack of protein can cause poor concentration and symptoms that feel like nervousness.
Little or no alcohol
- Alcohol disrupts sleep.
- Once alcohol wears off, you may feel like you are getting a jolt of tension.
Balance work with fun
- Distracting yourself from the source of your stress is important.
- The happier you are, the more resilient you will be against stress.
Talk to friends
- Having someone who understands you or relates to your life can be a great outlet and support.
- Feeling connected and close to other people can actually stimulate feel good neurochemicals in the body.
Find meaning in life by helping others less fortunate than you
- Volunteering can help us feel good about ourselves when we help others.
- Seeing others less fortunate than ourselves may put our own problems into perspective.
If you feel too overwhelmed, talk to a counselor
- Feeling stressed may get in the way of having a realistic picture of your problems.
Stress Reduction Plan
Stress Reduction Practice Log
Welcome to the Relaxation Room, where you will find strategies to help you relax, refresh and renew yourself. Feel free to try out each track to find the strategy that works best for you.
The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to become relaxed and unstressed at any time without using the tracks. You may also download these files by right clicking the link area and selecting “Save Target As”.
Track 1: Breathe to Relax – 3:06 minutes
Music credits: Song for the Morning Star – R. Carlos Nakai
Track 2: Warm Wave – 4:57 minutes
Track 3: Muscle Relaxation – 5:58 minutes
Palouse Mindfulness Stress Reduction and Wellness
A free, online 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course offered by Dave Potter of Palouse Mindfulness in Moscow, Idaho. There is no registration or requirement that you identify yourself.
Participants increase their ability to:
- Cope with stress, pain, and the challenges of everyday life
- Deal with disturbing events with grace and composure
- Be fully present and alive in this moment