Stress is a fact of life, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. You can't avoidstress, but you can learn to manage it to reduce stress.
Definition of StressStress
is the way human beings react both physically and mentally to changes, events, and situations in their lives. People experience stress in different ways and for different reasons. The reaction is based on your perception of an event or situation. If you view a situation negatively, you will likely feel distressed-overwhelmed, oppressed, or out of control. Distress
is the more familiar form of stress. The other form, eustress, results from a “positive” view of an event or situation, which is why it is also called “good stress.”
helps you rise to a challenge and can be an antidote to boredom because it engages focused energy. That energy can easily turn to distress, however, if something causes you to view the situation as unmanageable or out of control. Many people regard public speaking or airplane flights as very stressful-causing physical reactions such as an increased heart rate and a loss of appetite-while others look forward to the event. It’s often a question of perception: A positive stressor for one person can be a negative stressor for another.
But what is stress? Changes in our lives
- such as going to college, getting married, changing jobs, or illness—are frequent sources of stress. Keep in mind that changes that cause stress can also benefit you. Moving away from home to attend college, for example, creates personal-development opportunities—new challenges, friends, and living arrangements. That is why it’s important to know yourself and carefully consider the causes of stress. Learning to do this takes time, and although you cannot avoid stress, the good news is that you can minimize the harmful effects of stress, such as depression or hypertension. The key is to develop an awareness of how you interpret, and react to, circumstances.
Causes of Stress
The most frequent reasons for “stressing out” fall into three main categories:
1. The unsettling effects of change
2. The feeling that an outside force is challenging or threatening you
3. The feeling that you have lost personal control.
List of life events that cause stress
Life events such as marriage, changing jobs, divorce, or the death of a relative or friend are the most common causes of stress. Although life-threatening events are less common, they can be the most physiologically and psychologically acute. They are usually associated with public service career fields in which people experience intense stress levels because of imminent danger and a high degree of uncertainty—police officer, fire and rescue worker, emergency relief worker, and the military.
Common stressors for college students
You may not plan to enter a high-stress career, but as a college student, you may find that the demands of college life can create stressful situations. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) notes some of the more common stressors for college students:
• Increased academic demands
• Being on your own in a new environment
• Changes in family relations
• Financial responsibilities
• Changes in your social life
• Exposure to new people, ideas, and temptations
• Awareness of your sexual identity and orientation
• Preparing for life after graduation.
Symptoms of Stress
List of common symptoms of stress
Symptoms of stress fall into three general, but interrelated, categories - physical, mental, and emotional. Review this list carefully. If you find yourself frequently experiencing these symptoms, you are likely feeling distressed:
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Heart problems, such as palpitations
• Inability to focus/lack of concentration
• Sleep disturbances, whether it’s sleeping too much or an inability to sleep
• Sweating palms/shaking hands
• Sexual problems.
Even when you don’t realize it, stress can cause or contribute to serious physical disorders. It increases hormones such as adrenaline and corticosterone, which affect your metabolism, immune reactions, and other stress responses. That can lead to increases in your heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and physical demands on your internal organs.
Behavioral changes are also expressions of stress
They can include:
• Disruptive eating patterns (overeating or under eating)
• Harsh treatment of others
• Increased smoking or alcohol consumption
• Compulsive shopping.
A sustained high level of stress is no laughing matter. It can affect every area of your life— productivity in the workplace and classroom, increased health risks, and relationships, to name just a few.
As noted in the Introduction, you can learn to manage stress. The first step is understanding yourself better—how you react in different situations, what causes you stress, and how you behave when you feel stressed. Once you’ve done that, take the following steps:
Use the time-management tips you learned in Section 1.Make a To-Do list. Decide what is really important to get done today, and what can wait. This helps you to know that you are working on your most immediate priorities, and you don’t have the stress of trying to remember what you should be doing.
Practice facing stressful moments
Think about the event or situation you expect to face and rehearse your reactions. Find ways to practice dealing with the challenge. If you know that speaking in front of a group frightens you, practice doing it, perhaps with a trusted friend or fellow student. If the pressure of taking tests causes you to freeze up, buy some practice tests at the school bookstore or online and work with them when there are no time pressures.
Examine your expectations
Try to set realistic goals. It’s good to push yourself to achieve, but make sure your expectations are realistic. Watch out for perfectionism. Be satisfied with doing the best you can. Nobody’s perfect—not you, not your fellow Cadet, nobody. Allow people the liberty to make mistakes, and remember that mistakes can be a good teacher.
Live a healthy lifestyle
Get plenty of exercise. Eat healthy foods. Allow time for rest and relaxation. Find a relaxation technique that works for you—prayer, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. Look for the humor in life, and enjoy yourself.
Learn to accept change as a part of life
Nothing stays the same. Develop a support system of friends and relatives you can talk to when needed. Believe in yourself and your potential. Remember that many people from disadvantaged backgrounds have gone on to enjoy great success in life.
Best 7 strategies for dealing with stress
Here are some other strategies for dealing with stress:
- Schedule time for vacation, breaks in your routine, hobbies, and fun activities.
- Try to arrange for uninterrupted time to accomplish tasks that need your concentration. Arrange some leisure time during which you can do things that you really enjoy.
- Avoid scheduling too many appointments, meetings, and classes back-to-back. Allow breaks to catch your breath. Take a few slow, deep breaths whenever you feel stressed. Breathe from the abdomen and, as you exhale, silently say to yourself, “I feel calm.”
- Become an expert at managing your time. Read books, view videos, and attend seminars on time management. Once you cut down on time wasters, you’ll find more time to recharge yourself.
- Learn to say “no.” Setting limits can minimize stress. Spend time on your main responsibilities and priorities rather than allowing other people’s priorities or needs to dictate how you spend your time.
- Exercise regularly to reduce muscle tension and promote a sense of well-being.
- Tap into your support network. Family, friends, and social groups can help when dealing with stressful events.
Deal with Stress: Conclusion on Stress
Stress can have consequences far beyond temporary feelings of pressure. While you can’t avoid stress, you can learn to manage it and develop skills to cope with the events or situations you find stressful. By learning to cope with stress, and by recognizing the symptoms of depression and the warning signs of suicide, you’ll be better prepared to help not only yourself, but also friends, fellow students, and the Soldiers you will someday lead.
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