Tuesday, March 25, 2008

College Stress

Managing Stress And Anxiety One Day At A Time
By Ali Kolbeck

My senior year of high school I developed a severe anxiety disorder. The stress of making good grades, managing two jobs, maintaining relationships and figuring out where I would go to college began to take a serious toll on me. The stress I felt was physical, emotional and cognitive. Even in my second year of college I still experience high amounts of stress and anxiety, but I have managed to figure out some solutions to manage it.

When I first began experiencing intense amounts of stress it came in the physical form of difficulty sleeping, backaches, headaches and fatigue. As my anxiety levels rose, I began to experience more emotional symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, feeling overwhelmed, and eventually depression. It wasn’t until the summer after I graduated high school that I began to do research to try and understand why I was having these symptoms so often. After speaking with numerous physicians, therapists and psychologists, it was determined that I was suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Over the next two years I began to notice cognitive symptoms associated with the physical and emotional feelings. I had become forgetful and I was easily distracted, often having great difficulty concentrating. According to the University of Florida counseling center, all of these physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms are signs of stress. Things like one’s environment, thoughts, physiology or social surroundings can trigger stress. When I began to pinpoint which of these sources might be triggering my stress, I was able to find ways to help me manage my stress.

I discovered that my stress and anxiety was triggered by inadequate sleep and nutrition, negative self talk, financial situations, managing two jobs and trying to balance relationships, all of which the study at the Counseling Center confirmed to be linked to the sources of stress. When I understood where all of this anxiety was coming from, I began to take steps towards managing it.

By making sure that I go to bed at the same time every weeknight, or at least within half of an hour, my body became used to getting a full night’s rest. In turn, this helped me not to binge on junk foods when I needed an energy boost and my diet began to become much healthier. Getting a full night’s rest also helped me to fight fatigue and gave me more energy.

I became much more conscious about my spending and made a plan where I would save a certain amount each month so that if anything unexpected came up I would not stress out about not having enough money to pay for it. Knowing that I had money in the bank gave me peace of mind and allowed me to sleep at night. I learned not to become stressed at my job by making sure I didn’t overwork myself, and I did my best to relax and make work fun while I was there. I worked especially hard on cutting out negative self-talk and that helped me to become more confident in my relationships.

One way in which I targeted my mind, body and spirit was by taking up yoga. I began practicing Bikrim yoga three to five times a week for 90 minutes. Not only did it raise my self-esteem by getting me into shape, but it also opened my mind in a way that I had never experienced. It helped me to become more in tune with my body and it’s needs and helped to relieve stress both physically and emotionally. Having that hour and a half to myself, just a couple times a week, allowed me to let everything else go and just focus on myself for a little while.

Having experienced the change that yoga made in my life, I believe that it is very important to make time for your self, no matter what age you are. It is important to sit back and relax every once in a while because if you don’t, you might get so caught up in everything going on in your life that you cause stress related health issues like I did. Now, I’m not saying that yoga was the answer to my problems, or that I have stayed 100% true to any of the steps I have taken to manage my anxiety, but I try my hardest everyday to keep what is best for me in mind so that I can reduce the amount of stress I feel.

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