Tips for Managing Stress

As Emerson students, we all know what it’s like to have busy schedules: classes Monday through Friday, orgs in the afternoon, then part-time jobs, internships and/or performances. Sometimes it’s overwhelming and we don’t know how to get out of it. I know that I’m constantly anxious about all the things I need to get done. But instead of tackling my stress, I often pile more work onto my load thinking that I need to do everything, be a member of every org and maintain the best grades, all so I can secure a job in the future.

Stress, however, isn’t good for the body. Long-term stress can weaken the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to illness. It can cause indigestion, nausea, constipation, headaches and muscle pain. You may also become more irritable, impatient or forgetful. Oftentimes, and I know I’m guilty of this as well, people attempt to cope with stress by over or under eating, oversleeping, procrastinating or taking it out on others. These, however, are unhealthy approaches that might even make your stress worse.

Here are some tips on how to recognize and manage stress:

First order of business: identifying the source

For me, stress creeps up slowly. It’s something I don’t recognize until I’m already losing sleep and feeling like I can’t catch my breath. With spring break just around the corner, papers, presentations and midterms loom in front me. And when this past weekend arrived, I was so busy I felt lost. I didn’t know what to assignment to do first or even if I’d have the time to do it all. I even had a realization at three in the morning that Sunday that I hadn’t eaten since a late breakfast the day before. I knew then that I had to do something or I was going to lose my mind.

By identifying the source, you can gain control of your stress and make actions to lower it. I’ve found that the five strategies below are the best method to tackling the problem.

Strategy 1: Avoid any unnecessary stress

I know that I have a hard time saying no. Just the other day, I gave a woman on the street money, offered to review a friend’s paper and agreed to lunch with another friend. All of this added onto my already full schedule and forced me to take a step back. I had to tell myself that sometimes it’s good to say no. I ended up canceling my lunch plans which was the definitely the best choice for me. In either your personal or professional life, you shouldn’t take on more than you can handle. If you realize you have, it’s okay to admit you’re overwhelmed and need to take a step back. Look at what you have on your to-do list and drop whatever is truly unnecessary.

Strategy 2: Change the situation

It isn’t always possible to avoid a stressful situation. In this case, to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future, you can make actions now. Don’t bottle up your feelings; express them. Communicating your concerns about someone or something openly and respectfully will loosen the tension and inhibit the build-up of resentment, anger or frustration. Be assertive and deal with any problems head on. Trying to deny they exist won’t make them disappear. And lastly, manage your time accordingly. Planning ahead and making sure you don’t overbook yourself will help to lower much of your stress. I know this last tip is something I really need to work on. I want to imagine that I can do it all, but know that I can’t.

Strategy 3: Adjust your attitude and adapt to the stressor

When I become stressed, I’m often overwhelmed with everything I need to do. It’s the only thing l I can focus on and I then become upset that I’m in this situation. Looking at the world in a negative point of view didn’t change the situation or solve any of my problems. Because of my despondent attitude, I’ve actually missed out on a lot. For example, I forgot that my cousin’s baby shower was quickly approaching and was unable to fully appreciate the fact that my friend received an interview for an internship at The Today Show. Re-framing the stressor to focus on the positive can help keep things in perspective. Thinking positive thoughts will improve your emotional health and reduce stress. You’ll also feel like you’re in control and can actually manage your stress.

Strategy 4: Make time for fun and relaxation

For college students especially, it feels like we don’t have time for anything fun. We have a binder-full of homework to complete, essays to write and part-time jobs to get to. But taking the time for yourself is really important. Relaxing will give you a chance to recharge and prepare you to better handle future stress. This can be as simple as taking a few hours out of every day to go for a walk, listen to music, read for pleasure or watch a well-loved sitcom. I’ve now accepted that it’s alright for me to watch New Girl and The Mindy Project every Tuesday night. It’s only an hour out of my time; the world’s not going to end and any assignments I have can wait. I know I’ll still be able to get them done.

Strategy 5: Maintain a healthy lifestyle

I am not the healthiest person. I eat way too much junk food and think exercise is for the criminally insane. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, however, is extremely important. When you strengthen your physical health, you’ll also improve your resistance to stress. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet will not only bolster your body, but also your mind. Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and too much caffeine and sugar is also important. If your body feels healthy and strong, so will your mind.

The Health and Wellness Center is a great resource offered by Emerson College. You can make an appointment to go and talk about your health and if stress is affecting it. They can offer more tips for stress management and relaxation.

The Counseling Center is another wonderful resource. Here, you can discuss anything that might be bothering you. A professional will carefully listen and then provide the best support and advice.

All in all, everyone deals with stress differently. We’re always going to be faced with a situation that causes us anxiety. Knowing our limits and being aware of the various ways we can tackle the problem will help us to reduce stress and keep a positive attitude. It’s a continuous process, but one that will allow us to live happy, healthy lives. And hey, maybe sometime soon you’ll see me making an appearance in the fitness center.

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