Cleaning up the Mess of Stress
Stress. Does that word cause you to break into a sweat? Does it make your stomach turn? Perhaps this is because you felt the effects of stress when you crammed for that paper the night before it was due. Or maybe you felt stress when you had to publicly speak in front of a large audience. Stress is something most of us can say we’ve dealt with at some point in our life. In small amounts, stress is one of our bodies most normal of responses, driving us to accomplish our goals and completing a set of tasks. However, the impending deadlines, never-ending assignments and back-to-back exams do not make it particularly easy for us students to manage our stress effectively. In fact, according to the NCHA survey, over 63% of McMaster students reported experiencing higher than average or tremendous stress within the last 12 months. Repeated exposure to stress over longer periods of time is an abnormal form of stress known as chronic stress, and can have a debilitating effect on our physical and psychological health.
Fortunately, there are a variety of things that can be incorporated in your daily life that can help to alleviate and manage stress effectively:
Identify the cause: Throughout your day, try to monitor your thoughts and moods. Being able to determine the cause of your stress is incredibly important in addressing the issue. Doing this allows you to take control of your stress by making adjustments and changes specific to your lifestyle. For example, becoming more reasonable with your goals, setting limitations, being organized and planning your time can tremendously help mitigate the effects of chronic stress.
Healthier Lifestyle Choices: Making healthier lifestyle changes is an important part of stress management, by allowing you to better direct your energy on some of the challenges that you may be facing.
Limiting caffeine intake: Caffeine and alcohol have the ability to intensify the body’s stress response. As a result, reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake can have a positive effect on your response to stress.
Physical activity: Research has also shown that engaging in physical activity can help neutralize and dampen the effect of stress hormones, limiting its damaging effects. Exercise can also lead to a release in feel good endorphins, which not only decreases the production of stress hormones, but also improves your overall mood and well-being.
Quality of Sleep: Chronically stressed individuals typically experience a serious lack of sleep. However it is recommended that adults obtain at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep each night. Therefore, engaging in a relaxing activity such as a bath, reading a book, or listening to music and removing exposure to brightly lit electronics can help to improve your quality of sleep.
Positivity: A positive outlook is another important method for dealing with stress that involves turning negative attitudes into more positive and encouraging thoughts. Not everything will always be perfect or go the way you want, and that’s okay! Setting realistic expectations and redefining how you see a stressful situation will ultimately make stress much more manageable.
Reaching Out to a Support System: Managing your stress is much harder alone, therefore speaking to a close friend or family member can allow you to better understand the cause of your stress. Reaching out to someone can also be useful since they may have had a similar experience and could provide guidance, useful ideas and a new perspective.