#DolphinsLiveWell: Stress Management 101

#DolphinsLiveWell: Stress Management 101

When we talk about stress, many of us automatically think in negative terms. If we’re “stressed” over our academics, jobs, relationships, or finances, for example, we usually think of stress as a negative state where one feels at the very least “uncomfortable”.  

For some, it might mean their life is not balanced and they’re not managing all of the responsibilities they have in an equitable and healthy manner. This can then create a negative feedback loop, where not only are you experiencing stress regarding various situations in your life, but now you’re feeling guilty because you don’t appear to be managing your stress well. This could then lead to more acute feelings including anxiety and depression, and before you know it, your concern over paying your cellphone bill has spiraled out of control to where you are ready to give up everything!  

Now, before we get into ways of managing your stress, before it gets to that point, I’m here to tell you that as a college student heading into the last part of the semester, you are supposed to feel stressed!

We live in a world where many of us don’t want to be in a negative emotional state and while an admirable, albeit unattainable goal, particularly if you’re striving for mind, body, spirit balance, we do need stress in our lives! For example, when you experience stress, your brain gets a surge of adrenaline, which can lead to quick thinking and creative solutions.

Experiencing and managing stress makes us resilient. It helps us bounce back quicker from adversity, and as long as we employ strategies to keep the stress minimal, stress is a positive factor that is necessary in order to promote growth in our lives. Therefore, the goal isn’t to totally eliminate any stress from our lives, but to be able to manage the stress that we do have by engaging in activities that will help us to do this.  

College students, especially at this point in the semester, tend to believe they don’t have enough time to participate in “stress-management” activities, and this could be true! Between classes, homework, projects, papers, finals to study for, jobs, and athletic commitments, there might not be large chunks of the day to devote to long periods of exercise, binging on Netflix, or getting lost in social media. There are, however, times throughout the day where you can create a “time-out” by generating a conscious separation between stressful events, allowing you periods of relaxation in order to re-energize.

Engage in activities that make you smile and laugh, because they will create extra serotonin, which will decrease some of the stress that is in your system. Humor, a quick lunch with friends, or a walk around campus on a sunny fall day––even a quick conversation with a favorite administrator, faculty, or staff, or a phone call home are all quick ways to keep your serotonin levels up and stress levels down.  

So, the next time you feel yourself beginning to get overwhelmed with stress, ask yourself: what it is that’s causing the stress? Then identify one thing you can do to lower your stress level in that moment.  

Keep practicing these time-outs throughout your day, and remember, just breathe!