Tuesday, April 03, 2007

College Stress Commentary

You Mean I Could Be Stressing Myself Out?
By Amanda Yazdi

I have discovered recently that there is truth to what doctors have been saying for years -- excessive stress has undeniable physical manifestations. This is not a fact I ever truly doubted, but like many other things in life, I had to learn the hard way to be convinced.

This epiphany came to me at the end of a long hard winter of illnesses: allergies, colds, strep throat, laryngitis, IBS (I know, I’ve shared too much), and migraine headaches, to name a few. I am a non-traditional college student, which means I am a 27-year-old second-semester sophomore working toward my undergraduate degree. I take classes part-time while working full time, and recently am attempting to throw a social life into the mix. Toss in a tyrannical boss, a controlling ex-husband and a mountain of debt and it is no wonder I am on a first name basis with my pharmacist, right? Not necessarily.

According to a recent report from the University of Florida Counseling Center there is much that can be done to prevent and moderate the effect of stress induced by college life, or just life in general:

-- Understand your role in stress reactions
-- Develop a balanced life-style and effective personal organization
-- Learn specific relaxation techniques
-- Gain perspective on problems by discussing them, and
-- Clarify your values and develop a sense of spirituality

As I read down the list of possible stress-inducing factors issued by the same report, I feel exposed for what I really am, a disorganized, procrastinating, out of shape cesspool of negative thoughts. And guess what? I am making myself sick! Okay, I am being a little hard on myself, but the point to be made here is that a little organization, relaxation, and good old-fashioned shut-eye can be the keys to a stress-free existence.

Here are a few suggestions from the University of Florida Counseling Center on how to get a grip before you complete another stressed-out semester of binge eating and incomplete assignments.

Develop A Balanced Lifestyle
This is pretty basic information—eat right most of the time (save the excesses for the weekends), try to exercise a little bit every day (no—a few flights of stairs won’t kill you), and give yourself enough time to work on projects and assignments ahead of time. Once you start moderating a few things, the rest will fall into place.

Specific Relaxation Techniques
Yes—there are people out there who haven’t discovered the benefits of yoga (myself included). For the rest of us, do what makes you relax—listen to music, deep clean your bathtub (and then take a bubble bath), talk to a good listener—the key here is taking the time to actually do it.

Clarify Your Values And Develop A Sense Of Life Meaning
What is the meaning of life? That probably sounds corny and outdated and like a question that has no answer. But what if you ask it this way—what is the meaning of your life? What makes you happy and fulfilled? Be sure to include those things in your everyday life. Whether you’re religious or spiritual, or simply believe that you can improve the quality of someone else’s life by just being a part of it in some small way, embrace your traditions or find new ones, just don’t miss your opportunity to do something meaningful every day.

In effect, the little things you do every day have a major impact on your total well being. So, tackle that closet overflowing with laundry, get a head start on the paper you know is coming up, and have a bowl of oatmeal instead of that cold pizza in the morning before your brisk walk to campus. Your body and mind will thank you.

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