What is stress?
Hans Selye, M.D., is considered the world's leading authority on stress. He defined it as "the body's nonspecific response to any demand made upon it."
In other words, stress is....
Stress is a bodily response, not something that happens to us.
That means you can do something about it; you are not merely a helpless victim of circumstance. No matter what or how significant the stressors are in your life, you can learn to respond in a less destructive, more positive way.
You can be in control!
Stress results from any change in a routine, anything that forces us to cope with a new situation. The more changes in a short period, the greater the response. As we adapt to change, energy demands are made on the body.
Stress results from any threat, physical or psychological. Even if the mind merely imagines a problem, the body responds as if the danger were real. Determine how to make life happier and more rewarding by taking a healthy attitude toward stress.
Stress is an everyday fact of life and it is any change that you must adjust to. We usually think of stress as adverse events (illness, injury, death of a loved one). Still, stress can also be positive (getting a new job, moving, travel, a new baby).
Falling in love can, for some people, be as stressful as losing out of love.
What is my stress level?
Follow this link to take an Assessment Quiz by Stress.org to determine your current stress level.
Typical stress reactions
- Insomnia (which may turn into hypersomnia)
- Health problems (such as a change in appetite, headaches, digestive issues)
- Difficulty with concentration
- Inability to attach importance to anything other than this incident
- Startle reactions
- Memory disturbances
- Emotional numbing
- Anger-which may manifest by:
- Scapegoating, Irritability,
- Frustration with bureaucracy,
- Violent fantasies.
- Feelings of helplessness
- Amnesia for the event
- Your environment
- Your body
- Your thoughts
Strategies and tips for stress management
- Within the first 24-48 hours, periods of strenuous physical exercise alternated with relaxation will alleviate some physical reactions.
- Structure your time - keep busy.
- You are normal and having reactions - don't label yourself crazy.
- Talk to people - talk is the most healing medicine.
- Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol; you don't need to complicate this with a substance abuse problem.
- Reach out - people do care.
- Keep your life as normal as possible.
- Spend time with others.
- Help your co-workers as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they are doing.
- Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
- Keep a journal; write your way through those sleepless hours.
- Do things that feel good to you.
- Realize those around you are under stress.
- The Nutrition Almanac recommends supplementing your diet with vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium.
- Don't make any significant life changes.
- Do make as many daily decisions as possible, giving you a feeling of control over your life. ; (i.e., if someone asks you what you want to eat, answer them even if you are unsure.)
- Hide duplicate keys (keys to the car, house, etc.) in secure areas.
- Prepare yourself for work the night before (e.g., choose your clothes, pack your briefcase).
- Drink more water and decrease caffeine. ; Americans tend to be dehydrated, impacting our physical and mental performance.
- When appropriate, say "no" to requests that place additional demands on your life. ; Examine the consequences (e.g., did your worst fears materialize?).
- Examine your concerns or worries that preoccupy your mind. ; Ask yourself some of these questions: ; Will I still be worried about this concern in one month? ; When I'm lying on my deathbed, will I still think about this concern?
- Simplify, under-schedule, stretch, meditate and help others.
Choosing a release
If stress registers mainly in your body, you'll need a remedy to break up the physical tension pattern. ; This may be a vigorous body workout, but a slow-paced, even lazy, relaxation of muscles may be equally effective. ; Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Progressive relaxation
- Soaking in a hot tub or sauna (be aware too long or too desirable exposure can increase your blood pressure)
Whether your stress feels overwhelming or already managing it, you can benefit from learning relaxation techniques.
Learning essential relaxation is easy. Relaxation techniques are often free or very inexpensive, pose little risk and can be done nearly anywhere at virtually any time.
"4 by 4" Method
- Sit straight up in your chair in a good posture position
- Breath in for 4 seconds/ hold for 4 seconds/ breath out 4 seconds
- Push belly out on the inhalation allow it to recede on the exhalation
- Inhale through the nose until the lungs cannot retain any more air
- Quickly, with the mouth open, breathe in an extra breath
- Slowly exhale through the mouth
- Repeat three times
- Put your feet flat on the floor
- With your hands, grab underneath the chair.
- Push down with your feet and pull up on your chair simultaneously for about five seconds
- Relax for five to ten seconds
- Repeat the procedure two or three times
- Relax all your muscles except those used to take the test
- Flex and relax muscles (5 seconds each), starting with the head and working down sequentially to the feet.
- Think of a real or imaginary relaxing scene representing total serenity and well-being. Try to visualize this scene in vivid detail as if you were there, looking through your own eyes.
- Hold this relaxing scene in your imagination for several minutes.
- "No matter what I do, I will not pass the course."
- "I am no good at math, so why should I try?"
- "I cannot remember the answers or I have forgotten how to do the problems. I am going to fail this test."
- "I failed this course last semester and I am going to flunk out again this semester."
To stop thoughts during class or a test, silently shout to yourself, "stop" or "stop thinking about that." After your silent shout, either relax or repeat one of your positive self-talk statements. You may have to shout to yourself several times during a test or homework to control negative self-talk. After every shout, use a different relaxation technique/scene or positive self-talk statement.
- "I failed the course last semester, but I can now use my study/ math skills to pass this course."
- "I went blank on the last test, but I now know how to reduce test anxiety."
- "I know that with hard work, I will pass math."
- "I prepared for this test and will do the best I can."
- "I feel good about myself and my abilities. I will not worry about that complex problem, and I'm going to use all my test time and check for careless errors. Even if I don't get the grade I want on this test, it is not the end of the world."
Thought stopping works because it interrupts the worry response before it can cause high anxiety or negative emotions.
During the interruption, you can replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk statements or relaxation. Students with high worry anxiety should practice this technique three days to one week before taking a test.
Contact the campus counselor if you have additional questions about reducing test anxiety/negative self-talk statements.
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."
If you have 30 minutes...
Get a massage
If you have 10 minutes...
Write in a journal
Draw a picture
Self-care does not have to be time consuming. As lovely as it would be to take a three-week vacation to a tropical island, most of us do not have the time or resources. ;Below are some tips for effectively using the time you have available.
If you have 5 minutes...
Listen to music
Have a cleansing cry
If you have 2 minutes...
Take a few deep breaths