Stress is inevitable. That is something that either we experience or innately know already, yet it sounds strange as an idea. I was stressed out last week with two mid-term exams, and the weekend was nothing short of a blessing. MSNBC reports back in 2008 that as many as 1 in 5 undergraduates are stressed in college, and four in ten say they endure stress often. As college students, we constantly think of ways to de-stress, but stress creeps up on us beyond our conscious control. Focusing more on our diet, working out more frequently, sleeping more are all valid ways to help us physically de-stress, but the underlying psychological stressors are still at play.
College students have to juggle multiple things in any given day. If we are lucky, we can keep count of what we are juggling; if not, additional things encroach upon the exercise forcing us to juggle even more things at once. How many times do we find ourselves adding on to our to-do list throughout the day? How scary is the thought of a quiz-in-ten-minutes that you really thought was not taking place for a good two more days? Stress is constant because change is constant. The key is to get into the habit of managing stress.
From my readings on this topic, I’ve compiled these five steps we can do to manage stress:
- Lower your expectations to reduce cognitive dissonance. Often we get stressed over things that didn’t turn out the way we wanted them. Often, too, we were wrong with our expectations for these things from the get-go. In effect, we manufacture stress as result of our unrealistic expectations.
- Focus on “good” stress. Stress can be good to boost our performance. Research shows that moderate stress can help us achieve maximum performance. We simply don’t want to have too little stress, leading to mediocrity and complacency; nor do we want too much stress, resulting in poor short-term memories, pimples, increased body odor, and lowered immune system among many things. Think of a bell curve.
- Focus on what’s within your control. It makes no sense to worry about things that you have no control over. You can better use your energy elsewhere.
- Hang out with positive people. When you surround yourself with positive people, stress won’t have as much effect on your well being. Invest in your emotional piggy bank by forming and maintaining good relationships.
- Take a deep breath! We take this simple, cliched advice for granted. Try it for instant result.
One thing that is important and has helped me personally deal with stress is comparing my life occurrences to real life-changing events experienced by others, such as death or terminal disease in a family member, losing one’s house to the foreclosure crisis, divorce, fleeing one’s country due to political or religious persecution, natural disasters, or even losing financial aid and won’t be able to continue with one’s schooling. When you peg your day-to-day “stress” to these incidences, you’d realize we freak out about the most miniscule things in the world, often unnecessarily. That is not the way to live. Do not let stressors hold back and prevent you from reaching your fullest potentials.
The good news is that stress can be managed. All it takes is some mental preparation and the will to combat something that you partially created out of your own psych and expectations. For Longhorns, it should be comforting knowing that we are not among the Top 15 stressful colleges ranking. Good thing Playboy still ranked us #4 on this year’s Top 10 Party Schools. There are definitely outlets for Longhorns to de-stress. We need to be more resourceful in our planning, framing, and approaches in managing stress.
[Video] Learn to manage stress is important because no one wants to become this guy.