MANAGING STRESS: A GUIDE FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
There is no doubt that many college students feel stress. We may know we have stress when we experience it, but what is it exactly?
Stress is defined as a response to a demand that is placed upon you. Without some stress, people would not get a lot done. That extra burst of adrenaline that helps you finish your final paper, perform well in sports, or meet any challenge is positive stress. It is a short-term physiological tension and added mental alertness that subsides when the challenge has been met, enabling you to relax and carry on. Responses to stress can be physical, such as a headache; emotional, such as fear or sadness; and mental, such as increased anxiety. If you cannot return to a relaxed state, then the stress becomes negative. The changes in your body (increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and muscle tension) start to take their toll, often leading to mental and physical exhaustion and illness. Too much stress can cause problems and affect our health, productivity and relationships.
See: Managing Stress: A Wellness Lifestyle Approach - An overview of the many different components that together form a healthy lifestyle.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to help reduce and even prevent some of these problems caused by chronic stress. Managing stress is individual; you need to find the strategies that work for you. What helps one person reduce his or her stress may not be that helpful for someone else. As you look through this site, think about what appeals to you and what you think you can use. If a section does not apply to you, move on to the sections that do. Do not forget to refer to the campus resources.
Many resources can also be found in the Health Promotion Resource Library on the 1st floor of the Health Center.
Good luck as you put together your own personal plan for dealing with stress!
Stress is a part of life, but the healthier you are, the better able you are to manage stress when it happens. Chronic stress can impact your immune system, which lowers your resistance to getting sick. Approaching stress management from a wellness lifestyle approach can give you “money in the bank” when it comes to preventing stress, and can give you the energy you need to handle stress when it happens. The following components are part of a wellness lifestyle approach.
“Attitude is everything.” What does that mean? The way you think about things can make all the difference in how you react to events. In this section, we explore how you can change the way you think in order to reduce stress.
Good nutrition and healthy eating habits can help you through your stressful times now, not just prevent a heart attack 30 years down the road. Eating well will increase your physical, mental, and emotional stamina. Fueling yourself with nutrient dense foods can boost your immune system, help you maintain a healthy weight and help you feel better about yourself. Check out the Healthy Eating section for a quick diet assessment and ideas on how to fuel yourself better.
Physical activity provides immediate stress relief as well as long-term stress management. Just 20-30 minutes of walking a day, for example, can give you more energy, help you put things in perspective, improve your sleep, sharpen your mental productivity, and boost your self-confidence. Our bodies are made to move and everyone can find some type of activity that is enjoyable.
There are a number of relaxation techniques that can help you manage stress and also improve your concentration, productivity and overall well-being.
Consistent sleep is critical for a healthy life. Although we all need varying amounts of sleep, if we do not get enough sleep, everything from our immune system to our ability to learn and remember information will be negatively affected. Sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise when preparing for peak performance.
Changes in relationships can be a source of stress for many students, as can feeling socially isolated. At the same time, talking with a supportive friend or family member can be helpful in coping with stress. This section emphasizes conflict resolution for stress management.
Sometimes all the things we have to do can seem overwhelming and impossible to accomplish. Learning how to be a good time manager is a skill that you can use throughout your life, which can make work, play and studying more manageable, more productive and less stressful. Learn about the ABCs of time management.
Alcohol and other drug use can lead to many problems that can add stress to our lives. High-risk use can lead to poor decision-making, impaired abstract thinking, injury and legal problems. By understanding your overall risks, you can make healthier choices.
Tobacco can impact your sleep, ability to fight infection and overall health. These issues can create stressful situations. Tobacco use by some, however, is seen as a stress reducer. In order to achieve a healthy lifestyle, it is important to learn strategies to deal with stressors and to understand that quitting tobacco use takes time and practice.
When you consider that the average credit card debt of an undergrad is $2,748, it’s no wonder why finances are a common stressor for college students. This section offers tips on money management and credit card use.
Spirituality means finding personal meaning in your life; it doesn’t mean just following a particular religious dogma. This section describes how exploring spirituality may be helpful in managing stress.
Spirituality means finding personal meaning in your life; it doesn’t mean just following a particular religious dogma. This section describes how exploring spirituality may be helpful in managing stress.
First: Ask yourself, “What are my symptoms?” Keep in mind that while stress can be the cause of many symptoms, there is the possibility of an underlying disorder that will need attention.
Second: What do you feel to be the main cause(s) of your stress?
- Time Pressures:
Consider learning time management techniques. For help with time management, contact the Division of Academic Enhancement, 706-542-5436.
- Anxiety and/or Depression:
Symptoms of anxiety can include shortness of breath, dizziness, and heart palpitations. Depression symptoms can include lethargy, lack of interest in usual activities, and changes in eating habits. There are other symptoms, too. If you have some or all of these, see the clinician of the day, Counseling and Psychiatric Services. (CAPS), 706-542-2273.
- Academic Issues, Study Problems:
Make appointments with your instructors and advisors. Also, contact the Division of Academic Enhancement, 706-542-5436.
- Relationship problems, Loneliness, Family problems, Bereavement:
Counseling is available through Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), 706-542-2273; Center for Counseling and Personal Evaluation, Aderhold Hall, 706-542-8508; Psychology Clinic, Psychology Building, 706-542-1173; ASPIRE Clinic, McPhaul Child & Family Development Center, 706-542-4486. Call 706-542-SAFE for confidential information and consultation on relationship abuse.
- Housing problems:
Talk to your Resident Assistant or contact the UGA Housing Department: 706-542-1421.
- Sexual difficulties & Physical condition causing stress:
Gynecology Clinic, 706-542-8691 or contact your Medical Team.
- Physical Pain:
Physical pain such as TMJ or other facial pain, stomachaches, headaches, backaches. Contact your Medical Team, Dental Clinic (706-542-8700), or Massage Therapy (706-542-8634).
- Eating and Weight concerns:
Make appointment with nutritionist, Health Promotion Department, 706-542-8690. If you are on a UGA meal plan you may also contact Food Service’s Registered Dietician at 706-542-7313.
- Substance overuse:
Free smoking cessation program, 706-542-8666 or 706-542-8690. Alcohol/Other drugs: Visit Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), 706-542-2273, to arrange an A&D evaluation or visit the Health Promotion Department for education and counseling for alcohol and other drug issues, 706-542-8690.
- Attention & concentration problems:
Have a thorough physical evaluation with your Medical Team, and then, if appropriate, referral to Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), 706-542-2273; The University of Georgia Regents’ Center for Learning Disorders, 706-542-4589; and the Disability Resource Center, Clark Howell Hall, 706-542-8719.
- Don’t know what’s wrong, just feel weird, identity problems, strange thoughts:
Have a thorough physical evaluation with your Medical Team, and then, if appropriate, referral to Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), 706-542-2273.
- Everything is ok but I simply can’t unwind:
Check with Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy for relaxation classes & massage therapy services (706-542-8634). Exercise CAN help; yoga classes are available at the Ramsey Center and in the community.
- Money management:
Call Office of Student Financial Aid, 706-542-5373.
ALCOHOL & OTHER DRUGS
Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) are sometimes thought to reduce stress. Have you ever heard that they are “an outlet” or “an escape from reality?” The reality is that AOD can create more stress. How? Alcohol and other drugs can cause health, impairment and legal problems that can create a more stressful reality.
… missed a class, been arrested, thrown up, had a hangover, gotten in trouble, had alcohol poisoning, performed poorly on an assignment or test, gotten into a fight, been hurt or injured, driven under the influence and/or had memory loss? If you said yes to any of these, did the situation increase or decrease the amount of stress if your life?
Tolerance does not offset impairment; it just delays it. Mental impairment can even occur without one realizing it’s happening, even with a high tolerance. It gives a false sense of security, putting individuals at higher risk for accidents and other problems. Anyone who drinks to the level of impairment is at risk for a multitude of problems. These problems range from relationship issues, decrease in performance levels, reduction in abstract mental functioning, cumulative organ damage, increased occurrence of non-stranger rape, unplanned and unprotected sex, legal problems, automobile crashes, alcoholism and early death.
A standard dose of any drug is impairing and therefore impairment problems can occur with any drug use. In addition, the strength and purity of other drugs are never known. This means we do not know if the drug is very strong or if other drugs or chemicals have been mixed in with the drug.
Prescription drugs used without a prescription or not used as prescribed can cause serious health problems. If using Adderall and Ritalin, for example, liver damage may occur if not monitored by a physician. Abusing them can cause heart palpitations, anxiety, headaches, change blood pressure and other health related issues.
What is healthy alcohol use? What is unhealthy alcohol use? Everyone is different; however, there has been much research on the health and impairment risks of use. It is important to know exactly how much alcohol you are using to make sure it does not continue to increase.
Consider the following questions.
______ Maximum number of drinking occasions per week
______ Maximum number of drinks per occasion
What are the barriers to achieving this goal?
How do you overcome these barriers?
Who will support you achieving your goal?
Have you ever noticed how the exact same situation can stress one person out, while it might not affect another person at all? This difference can usually be explained by the way each individual thinks about the situation. Changing the way you think (a.k.a. cognitive restructuring) can help you manage stressors in your life. Here’s how.
Each time something happens in our lives, the information about that event enters our minds. We then interpret it; we form beliefs about what the events means, why it happened or how it is going to affect us. While we can’t always control the events that happen, we can control what we think about the event, which in turn shape our feelings about them.
Self-talk is an ongoing internal dialogue we each have. Oftentimes this conversation is overly critical, irrational and destructive. To reduce stress, instead of being your own worst critic, treat yourself with a gentle touch. Talk to yourself like you would a child who you care about very much.
Think about a stressful situation you experienced recently.
Come up with both negative/irrational and productive/rational self-talk for the situation.
Situation: I have a huge paper due in two days.
Irrational self-talk: I’ll never get it done. Why did I take that stupid class in the first place?
Rational self-talk: I’ve worked well under pressure in the past. I know I can do it again!
Situation: I came home to discover my roommate left the kitchen a mess.
Irrational self-talk: She is so disrespectful of me. Can’t she think about anyone but herself?
Rational self-talk: I know my roommate has a lot going on. She would have cleaned up if she had time.
Irrational self-talk: ___________________________________________________________
Rational self-talk: ____________________________________________________________
Remember, you decide which self-talk you choose to listen to. Try to monitor your self-talk and replace negative messages with constructive, rational ones.
Are the messages that you send yourself causing distress? Listed below are ten Self-defeating thought patterns, which can cause specific kinds of negative emotions. Do any of these seem familiar to you?
Things are either black or white, good or bad. If a situation falls short of being perfect, it is total failure. Remember that there is middle ground; rarely will situations be perfect. If everything short of being perfect is considered a failure, how can one enjoy what is good?
You come to a general conclusion about something or someone based on one negative event. Because one bad thing happens you over generalize and say that these things “always” happen or that good things “never” happen. This negative self-talk becomes a script for self-defeat.
When you examine a situation, the negative details receive the most attention. They are magnified disproportionately while the positive are filtered out. There are many ways of looking at every situation. Sometimes tragedies occur which do not have many positive aspects. However, when one repeatedly dwells on the negative, reality can become distorted, and things seem much worse than they truly are.
Discounting the positive.
You have difficulty accepting praise or enjoying positive experiences. You reject positive experiences as if they “don’t count.” If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done it as well. This leaves you with an inadequate and unrewarded feeling, even when things are going well.
You see yourself as being personally responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you, even when you are not. Everything that people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. Personalization leads to negative emotions of guilt, shame and feelings of failure.
You unrealistically hold other people or circumstances responsible for your pain, while ignoring aspects that you are responsible for. This usually doesn’t go very well with others, who will resent being scapegoated and pass the blame right back.
You have a list or ironclad rules about the way that things “should” be and how you and other people “should” act. This leads to feelings of guilt and frustration when the rules are broken, and situations don’t live up to high expectations.
You feel as though you are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any lengths to prove that you are right.
When a problem or new situation is encountered, you expect disaster. “What if” statements dominate your thoughts about situations. This is emotional reasoning and is not based on realistic appraisal of the situation.
Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to divine how people are feeling towards you. These assumptions are a sign of poor communication skills and can lead to unwarranted negative feelings and interpersonal conflict.
Refuting irrational ideas and cognitive distortions can be an important way to alleviate unhealthy, negative emotions. When you learn to think about your problems in a constructive and realistic manner, you can change the way you feel.
- Boosts energy.
- Increases ability to concentrate.
- Makes you feel great because your body will produce endorphins, which naturally relieve pain and induce feelings of well-being and relaxation.
- Improves physical appearance, enhances self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Helps you fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality.
- Means fewer illnesses – physically fit people are more resistant to diseases.
- Strengthens your heart which is constantly being called upon to “fight or flight” from job, school, family, financial, relationship, and every other kind of stressor you confront daily.
Change the “E” word from exercise to enjoyment. Find activities that you love to do and that match your personality. If you love the outdoors, go hiking or biking. Dancing, gardening, or skating might be your passion.
Do it to music. Plug yourself in and listen to music, news or books-on-tape.
Use personal muscle power for transportation. Bike to school or to the store, walk to lunch or to your next class, or get “in-line” and skate around campus.
The Ramsey Center has more than weights and aerobics classes. Try their climbing wall, exercise balls, ballroom or Latin dance classes, martial arts programs, yoga, or pilates classes. You can also fence, play tennis, soccer, and many other games through the Recreational Sports Program. Join ORC (Outdoor Recreation Center) for great outings and equipment rental.
Get a partner. Exercising with someone else can be more fun.
Vary your routine. You may be less likely to get bored or injured if you change your routine. Walk one day. Bicycle the next. Do a set of Pilates exercises at home another day.
Following are a few key questions* that can help you decide which forms of physical activity might be right for you.
How physically fit are you now?
If you haven’t been active recently, start out slowly – for example, walking 15-20 minutes or beginning at a low level on some cardio equipment for 10-15 minutes. If you overdo, you increase your risk for injury.
What do you want from your physical activity?
Do you want to run a race in a few months, or just be able to maintain a moderate level of activity for 30 minutes? You can find fitness in a lot of enjoyable activities.
Do you prefer to be alone or with others when you are being active?
Some people do better with exercise buddies, while others prefer the time alone. Find what motivates you.
Do you prefer indoors or outdoors?
Getting active doesn’t have to be “working out at Ramsey” – you can walk around Lake Herrick or join ORC weekend expeditions.
How much time are you willing to commit?
When can you fit activity into your schedule?
It can help to write your activity time into your planner or to find 10-15 minutes a few times a day you can get active.
*Adapted from The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook
MY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY PLAN
Activities I can do or want to try _____________________________________________
Times I can do them ______________________________________________________
Equipment I will need _____________________________________________________
Support people __________________________________________________________
My rewards _____________________________________________________________
Now you’ve figured out what you want to do and have a plan, but how can you maintain this plan?
Find a regular time every day
You may want to do short times of activity several times a day. Look ahead at your classes, meetings, and other commitments – when do you have 10 or 15 minutes for a quick walk, a little dancing in your living room or walking a few staircases?
Keep a daily log or diary of your activities
Build in a reward system for reaching your goals – gold stars on your calendar, sign up for a massage, get a facial, go out to a movie, or just take time to read a book!
Check your progress
Can you walk a certain distance faster now than when you began or is your heart rate slower now?
Focus on the benefits of physical activity
Notice that you feel relaxed, energized, and refreshed, and that your concentration and sleep have improved.
Post your goals
Keep them where you can see them each day.
Get support from your family and friends
Tell them about your goals or enlist them to join you.
CALCULATE YOUR TARGET HEART RATE RANGE
To determine your target heart rate range, you must first understand how to take your pulse rate accurately. Please visit www.heart.org to learn how.
- Figure out how much money you have coming in: track your spending for two to four weeks to find out where your money is going.
- Track your spending for two to four weeks to find out exactly where your money is going.
- Crunch the numbers: total income – total expenses = balance.
- Map out a budget by listing your sources of income as well as expenses.
- Examine your budget. Review your budget and consider.
- Stick to it! Your discipline can pay off by having less stress and worry about your finances.
How can you add to your resources? This may mean getting a part-time job, asking family for help, etc.
What expenses can be eliminated? Unfortunately, you may not be able to do everything you want. Are there some things you consider necessities that may really be luxuries? What things can you do less frequently? Are there little things you buy each day (e.g., a latte) that add up? Can you cut back on these?
Being smart about credit means acknowledging that credit cards are not free money. They are high interest loans.
If credit cards are a problem for you, you can…
- Consider a debit card instead, so you only spend money that you really have.
- Use credit cards sparingly, not for small purchases. Otherwise you may be paying interest on minor items – soft drinks, magazines, etc.
- Ask for your credit limit (potential debt) to be lowered. Companies will try boost up your credit lines so you spend more. Tell them “no” each time.
- Avoid applying for a card just to get a free gift.
- Research before choosing a card.
- Pay your bills on time. Try to avoid carrying a balance.
Healthy eating plays a crucial role in your ability to deal with times of extra stress. Carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are all important for energy, mental concentration, and emotional stability.
Stress may weaken your immune system and increase your body’s need for certain nutrients. A balanced diet will help you stay focused, alert, energetic, and healthy during times of stress. However, if you live off of fast food or frequently skip meals, you are more likely to perform poorly or get sick during stressful times.
A daily multivitamin/mineral supplement (recommended for most college students) can be helpful, but it will not replace the role that whole foods play in maintaining a healthy body. Whole foods contain many substances, such as phytochemicals and fiber, which boost the immune system and maintain health.
Any discussion about eating and stress must include caffeine and sugar. Many people use high sugar foods to keep their energy up and caffeine to keep going when they need rest. Too much caffeine will contribute to poor quality sleep and add to the negative effects of stress on the body. Sugar will satisfy you in the short term, leaves you with less energy and more hungry after an hour or two. Whole foods will provide you with energy that will last for several hours.
Although it is sometimes hard to recognize, there is a lot of social pressure to enter a relationship. Perhaps it’s your mom asking why you aren’t dating someone or a friend from high school who goes on and on about his/her boyfriend/girlfriend, then hesitates to ask about your romantic life because you’re not dating anyone. Whether you have chosen to be single or you have found yourself in that situation, there are a lot of benefits from your current situation. You should take advantage of those that best meet your needs.
Being single can allow you to…
- date several people.
- spend money on things that you like.
- learn more about who you are.
- spend as much time with your friends as you want.
- flirt without worrying about the repercussions.
- not have to “check in” with someone.
Being single is a respectable and healthy choice. You can have more time to focus on a career, hobbies, travel, and hanging out, without feeling that you left someone out.
Is your relationship stressing you out? These are characteristics of a healthy relationship. If these don’t describe your relationship, it may be a source of stress for you. In a healthy relationship you…
- have fun and grow together.
- feel like you can be yourself.
- maintain honesty, trust and good communication.
- build friendship and respect.
- handle conflict.
- have accountability, partnership and dedication.
- share healthy sexuality.
At the core of any successful relationship is the ability to communicate and resolve conflict. Even though many of our associations with conflict are negative, conflict is normal and healthy. It is an opportunity for both personal growth and strengthening relationships.
Think about a conflict you recently had.
Since conflict is inevitable, what’s important is how we respond to conflict. Some options are hurtful or destructive to us or others and some options are compassionate and productive.
There Are Many Options for Responding to Conflict
- Some options are passive, such as withdrawing, ignoring, avoiding, or giving in.
- Some are aggressive, such as threatening, intimidating, yelling, demanding, or pressuring.
- Others are assertive, such as negotiating, compromising, or seeking help/mediation (get an outside person to facilitate or help work it out)
Think about the same conflict.
Did you choose a passive, aggressive, or assertive response to this conflict? Why?
The assertive options are generally the hardest to master, but the most important if the goal is genuine problem solving and an improved relationship.
Being assertive can reduce stress. Being assertive means claiming and expressing your experiences, your feelings, your wants and your rights. Assertiveness is necessary if compromise is to occur. People who are assertive feel comfortable asking for help, saying “no” to others, stating a unique opinion, making requests, and expressing both positive and negative feelings.
What is a situation in which you want to be more effective?
Plan what you can say in this situation with these four short statements.
- I think…(description of the problem)
- I feel…(emotional reaction to problem)
- I want…(specific behavioral request)
- I will…(your contribution to the compromise)
TIPS FOR FIGHTING FAIRLY
Find a good time.
Don’t have difficult conversations when you are very angry or tired. Ask, “When is a good time to talk about something that is bothering me?”
Focus on the problem, not the other person.
Open sensitive conversations with “I” statements; talk about how you struggle with the problem. Don’t open with “you” statements; avoid blaming the other person for your thoughts and feelings.
Stay with the topic.
Don’t use a current concern as a reason to jump into everything that bothers you.
Let others speak for themselves.
Don’t assume things. When we feel close to someone it’s easy to think we know how he or she thinks and feels. Don’t assign feelings or motives.
Say, “I’m sorry” when you’re wrong. It goes a long way in making things right again. Ask for help if you need it.
There may not be a resolved ending. Be prepared to compromise or to disagree about some things. The goal is for everyone to be a winner.
It may be time to move on from a relationship when:
- Unhappiness with the relationship persists for a significant amount of time.
- There is unresolved conflict.
- You are staying in the relationship to avoid hurting your partner.
- It seems as though trust cannot be rebuilt.
- You are considering pursuing a relationship with someone else.
Some individuals stay in a relationship because they are “afraid”to be alone—even when there are no feelings of love for the other person. Using a relationship as a security blanket to protect you from loneliness isn’t fair to the other person and doesn’t give you an opportunity to grow, learn about yourself and find out what you need. If you’re in that type of situation, ending the relationship might be best for you and your partner.
ENDING A RELATIONSHIP
Ending a relationship is a hard thing to do. There could be feelings of guilt, fear of emotionally hurting your partner, fear that your partner may take it the wrong way, or it could be that feeling of wondering if you did everything possible to save the relationship.
Although ending a relationship is easy for some, for others it can be a difficult thing. If you feel it is the best option for you, then you need to follow through no matter how difficult the process may be. In some instances you may find that your partner feels the same way, and in others your partner doesn’t realize what’s going on. Holding on to a relationship that is over will only make the relationship worse and become more of a strain on you and your partner’s life. If ending a relationship were the best thing for you, then it would be the best thing for your partner.
- Be honest—with yourself and your partner.
- Be respectful—end it clearly and compassionately.
- Be clear. Don’t expect your partner to know what is going on. Explain the situation and your feelings fully.
- Explain how you want the relationship to end (friendship, no contact, etc.).
WHEN THE LOVE BUG STRIKES AGAIN
Every relationship is a learning experience. If one does not work out, use what you have learned in the next relationship. It’s also important to remember that every relationship is different—with various strengths and weaknesses. Avoiding comparisons between one relationship and your current situation will help you focus on the benefits you’re experiencing today.
Relationships are a healthy part of life. Enjoy it when it is right for you and when it is not, don’t worry. The best is next to come!
IF ABUSE IS INVOLVED
With the term “abusive”, many individuals think of being hit or punched, but abuse can come in many forms—from verbal abuse to preventing other friendships and activities. Sometimes it is difficult for the person in the relationship to realize that it is abusive. Some of the following questions may help you assess your relationship.
- Does your partner reduce your self-esteem?
- Do you feel threatened or afraid of your partner at any time?
- Does your partner try to control your decisions and your life?
- Have you lost all your friends because of this relationship?
- Has your partner ever hit you, pushed you, or forced you to have sex?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to speak with a professional about your relationship.
There are a number of relaxation techniques that can help you manage stress and also improve your concentration, productivity and overall well-being. If you need help, ask a therapist or counselor. He or she can offer more detailed instructions and coaching to help you perfect these techniques.
- Find a quiet, relaxing place, where you will be alone for 10-20 minutes to do these exercises. The techniques work best if there are no distractions.
- Practice once or twice a day.
- Stick with the technique that works best for you. Not every technique will work for every person.
- Keep trying. Don’t worry if you don’t notice a major change immediately. You may need to practice for a few weeks before you begin to feel the benefits.
- Try one or more of the techniques described below.
This technique can help you relax the major muscle groups in your body. And, it’s easy to do.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Sit in a favorite chair or lie down.
- Begin with your facial muscles. Frown hard for 5-10 seconds and then relax all your muscles.
- Work other facial muscles by scrunching your face up or knitting your eyebrows for 5-10 seconds. Release. You should feel a noticeable difference between the tense and relaxed muscles.
- Move on to your jaw. Then, move on to other muscle groups – shoulders, arms, chest, legs, etc. – until you’ve tensed and relaxed individual muscle groups throughout your whole body.
This is the process of focusing on a single word or object to clear your mind. As a result, you feel calm and refreshed.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Sit or lie in a relaxing position.
- Close your eyes and concentrate on a calming thought, word or object.
- You may find that other thoughts pop into your mind. Don’t worry, this is normal. Try not to dwell on them. Just keep focusing on your image or sound.
- If you’re having trouble, try repeating a word or sound over and over. (Some people find it helpful to play soothing music while meditating.)
- Gradually, you’ll begin to feel more and more relaxed.
This technique uses your imagination, a great resource when it comes to reducing stress.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Imagine a pleasant, peaceful scene, such as a lush forest or a sandy beach. Picture yourself in this setting.
- Focus on the scene for a set amount of time (any amount of time you are comfortable with), then gradually return to the present.
One of the easiest ways to relieve tension is deep breathing.
- Lie on your back with a pillow under your head. Bend your knees (or put a pillow under them) to relax your stomach.
- Put one hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose. Your stomach should feel like it’s rising.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely and letting your stomach fall.
- Repeat several times until you feel calm and relaxed. Practice daily.
Once you are able to do this easily, you can practice this technique almost anywhere, at any time.
Mandala is Sanskrit for circle, polygon, community and connection. The circle concept exists in nature, is found in many religious symbols and represents wholeness. Mandalas are intricate designs that can be a part of the meditating experience. When you color a mandala, your goal is to focus on the process of coloring, and be mindful of how it feels to color. It is very relaxing and calming. When you have finished, you have created a lovely picture.
Download a mandala for coloring.
Arch your eyebrows as high as you can. Hold them there for 10 seconds, then release them suddenly. Relax. Now frown deeply, lowering your eyebrows as far you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Release suddenly. Relax.
Close your eyes tightly. Hold for 10 seconds, then open them quickly. Relax.
Wrinkle up your nose and raise your cheeks at the same time. Hold for 10 seconds. Release quickly. Relax.
Press your lips together as tightly as you can. Feel the tendons under your chin getting taut. Hold 10 seconds. Release suddenly. Relax.
Bring the tip of your tongue up against the roof of your mouth, behind your upper teeth, pressing hard. Muscles around the jaw and under the chin should feel taut. Hold 10 seconds, then let go quickly. Relax.
In a high-back chair or lying down, press your head back. Hold 10 seconds, then release quickly. Relax. Or rotate your head in a semi-circle from side to side. Begin with the ear pressed toward the shoulder, roll forward and then reverse directions.
Raise your shoulders in a shrug, as high as you can. At the same time, extend your arms stiffly behind you and angled outward, with your palms facing back and thumbs pointing down. Hold 10 seconds, then relax shoulders.
Slowly draw the deepest breath you can. Hold it at least 6 seconds. Exhale quickly. Relax. Do this four times.
Touch your fingertips to your shoulders, while tensing your biceps. Hold tense for 10 seconds, then let go. Relax.
Hold your arms straight out in front, palms down. Bend your hands upward at the wrist, until your hands and forearms make a 90° angle. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax.
Extend both arms in front, palms up. Make tight fists and hold tense for 10 seconds. Release quickly. Relax.
Push your stomach muscles out as far as you can. Hold for 10 seconds. Release. Now draw in all your stomach muscles, keeping them tight for 10 seconds. Release and relax.
Press your upper legs together tightly, but don’t let the area below the knees touch. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax.
Sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, put your feet together and point your toes forward. Hold 10 seconds. Now using your ankles, bend your feet back toward your body as far as possible. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax.
Stress and sleep problems often occur together. When this happens it can be hard to know how to improve sleep when you’re stressed and reduce stress when you have trouble sleeping. There are a number of reasons why stress and sleep negatively impact each other.
We stay so busy and occupied during the day, our mind often runs a million miles per hour just to keep up with all of our responsibilities. The stress of a fast paced life and limited time to process the day’s activities often keeps our mind moving quickly, even when it is time for our head to hit the pillow. It’s often hard to slow down and “turn our brain off” at the end of the day. This frequently makes falling asleep and staying asleep difficult.
When we are stressed our body is flooded with stress hormones to help us respond to a threat or stressor. Cortisol and adrenaline are important stress hormones and key players in keeping us alert and focused. However, these hormones can become the enemy when we are trying to relax and go to sleep. The presence of these stress hormones often disrupt an individual’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
When we don’t get enough sleep or sacrifice sleep for studying, partying or other activities, consuming caffeine can become our crutch. While caffeine can temporarily help us get through the day, it is often associated with interrupting deep sleep. Low sleep quality and functioning on caffeine can make us more susceptible to stress, less effective in how we manage stress, and less capable of establishing healthy sleep patterns.
A hectic, busy life can rob you of time you can actually dedicate to sleep. If you find yourself pushing your bedtime back further and further to get things done, or getting up earlier so you can be more productive, you may not realize the toll it’s taking on your sleep and susceptibility to stress.
Anxiety can make falling asleep and staying asleep extremely difficult. Anxiety often keeps individuals in a constant state of readiness for something to happen or rehearsing for an upcoming event. As a result, anxiety can rob you of sleep by keeping stress hormones at a high level and making quality sleep much harder to achieve.
There are a number of strategies you can use to help you become more relaxed before you go to sleep.
Go to https://healthpromotion.uga.edu/sleep/, for much more information on increasing healthy sleep behaviors.
Spirituality means knowing one’s self, having a sense of purpose in life, feeling connected to others, and achieving one’s full potential. For some, this means tapping into the wisdom within. For others, spirituality is grounded in experiencing nature. Spirituality is being inspired, focusing on sensory experiences, finding beauty and joy in everyday things, cherishing life, and feeling the interconnectedness of the universe.
Spirituality can help restore a sense of calm and balance when the daily grind may seem overwhelming. Many rituals associated with spirituality can be helpful in managing stress. Here are some ways to explore your spirituality and resources to help you try them out.
- Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky
- Can’t Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne & Mary Pipher
- Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female With the Mass Media by Susan J. Douglas
- Buy Nothing Day
- Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John De Graaf, David Wann, & Thomas H. Naylor
- The Better World Handbook: From Good Intentions to Everyday Actions by Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, Brett Johnson, & Brian Klocke
- Walking by Henry David Thoreau
- Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
- Visit the State Botanical Garden
- Slow Food USA
- Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures of Food by Carlo Petrini & Benjamin Watson (Eds.)
- Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser
- For student organizations, including religious organizations, view the University of Georgia’s Student Organizations Directory
- Ramsey Center
- Check out one of the many yoga centers in town.
- Carry a special object with you that reminds you of what is important to you.
- Keep a diary or journal.
- Take a personal retreat. Change your routine and give yourself a break from your responsibilities.
- Spend time alone.
Learning how to manage your time so that you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish is a skill that will help you throughout your life. It is particularly helpful when you are a college student as you have deadlines and many competing priorities that need your attention. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and anxious at times, but having a plan to help you get organized and set priorities will help ease the tension.
Everyone develops their own approach to better manage time, and here are a few tips to help you:
A. Anticipate and plan
B. Break tasks down
C. Cross things off
D. Don’t procrastinate
Every student needs to have some kind of tool to keep track of his/her busy life. This could be a calendar, a day planner, a hand held electronic planner, or a legal pad. Whatever the tool, it needs to be something you can carry with you, and you also need to be able to see at least a week at a time so that projects or tests don’t sneak up on you. Most things take longer than we think they will, so if you think about things in advance and plan for the certainties, you will have enough flexibility in your schedule to handle the unexpected things that come up. Put everything on your calendar… tests and projects, study time, social engagements, etc.
Whether you are faced with a big task, such as graduating in 4 years, or smaller tasks such as studying for a final, it helps if you break the task down into smaller, more manageable parts. Students who procrastinate often comment that when they wait to the last minute to complete a project, they often feel overwhelmed, and the task seems insurmountable. By setting priorities and breaking the bigger project into smaller tasks, the work is more manageable, and less intimidating.
Here’s how to break tasks down:
- Look at the big picture; make sure you understand what the end product is supposed to look like. Ask the professor to show you examples from previous classes.
- Look at the parts. What pieces will enable you to get to the whole? Figure out step-by step what you need to do. It’s not going to happen through magic.
- Think about the logical order of completing the pieces. What should you do first, second, third. Etc?
- Create a timeline for completing your tasks.
- Have a plan to help you stay on track. Put the time you will spend on the project into your study schedule so that you can set aside the time for it. Stick with this plan. A plan is only good if you see it through.
- Complete it early enough to have some time left for a final review.
Making a “to do” list is an essential part of effective time management. Making these lists helps you see all that has to be done, and it is a memory jogger to remind you of what has to be done. You can make immediate to do lists and longer term to do lists. Putting a date when tasks are due is helpful. Writing things on your hand to help you remember things can only take you so far!
Here is an example:
Immediate To Do list:
- write outline for psychology class by Friday
- do laundry Saturday
- meet with study group Sunday afternoon
- call mom Sunday night
Long-term lists look the same, but the “by when” dates are further in the future.
Once you make a list, make sure you have it in a convenient place…. Somewhere you will see it easily, and often!
If most of your life you have followed the belief of “don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow”, then most likely you brought this mind set with you to college. Procrastination can lead to many sleepless nights (literally) and can contribute to academic and personal difficulties. Procrastination can simply be a way of life for many students, and this can be stressful for them as well as others around them. It might be hard to do, but take care of business first, and then do fun things. There are resources on campus that can help you learn how to deal with procrastination so that you can get your work done in a more productive way.
Here are some advantages of being a good time manager:
- You will have less stress in your life.
- You will have more time for the things you want to do and that you enjoy.
- You can be a better-rounded student and enjoy many aspects of college life.
- You will be able to spend more time with friends.
- You can learn more… efficient learners get more from classes than those who keep trying to figure out how to study and learn effectively.
- You will be able to play more.
- You will feel good about yourself… when you feel good about your academic accomplishments; it spills over into other parts of your life.
Tobacco can impact your sleep, ability to fight infection and overall health. These issues can create stressful situations. Some tobacco users perceive smoking or chewing as a stress reducer, however, the physiological effects on the body can actually increase current stress. In order to achieve a healthy lifestyle, it is important to learn strategies to deal with stressors and to understand that quitting tobacco use takes time and practice.
- Start exercising—this can help alleviate stress as you begin your tobacco cessation journey
- Know that it isn’t easy to quit! It can take time and sometimes several attempts.
You may also want to call the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP. This service provides free counseling, a resource library, support and referral services for tobacco users in Georgia.
Georgia Tobacco Quit Line
National Cancer Society
THe National Cancer Institute (NCI): Smokefree.gov