#DolphinsLiveWell: Managing Mid-semester Stress

Now that fall break has come and gone, we are officially halfway through the semester!   Hopefully, you were able to spend the long weekend resting, relaxing, and perhaps catching up on your academics, AND preparing for mid-terms, projects and papers.  This WILL create a certain amount of stress but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  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”…and no one likes to feel uncomfortable!  In her book, The Upside of Stress, Dr. Kelly McGonical  writes “Stress happens when something you care about is at stake. It’s not a sign to run away – it’s a sign to step forward.”  You as college students care greatly about your academics, that is why you are here.  This is also why stress is so intrinsicallyconnected to the desire for academic success.  The trick is to use this stress to move forward rather than to avoid responsibility.  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.   McGonical further writes  “The stress response is more than a basic survival instinct. It is built into how humans operate, how we relate to one another, and how we navigate our place in the world. When you understand this, the stress response is no longer something to be feared.”


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, exams 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!