by Christopher Banks, paramedic and PJC nursing student
Now with midterms behind us, rarely is there a sense of a downhill side to the semester. More often than not, the last half of the semester can feel as if a “final” boulder is being hurled wildly out of control down our mountain of books, notes, and handouts.
Collegiate stressors, without the proper coping skills, can wreak havoc on the mind and body. Midterms, finals, and everything in between can be more than just a pain in the neck.
Stress is our body’s physical reaction to different everyday situations. Stress is unavoidable and trying to avoid it only creates more of it. Stress is as commonplace as the air we breathe and food we eat.
In order to learn to properly digest stress, without making ourselves physically ill, we must first understand the kinds of effects stress can have on the body.
Stress can weaken the immune system, thus increasing the chances of becoming sick and taking longer to recover from illnesses. Stress has been linked to high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries which can cause heart attacks and stroke as we get older.
Stress can worsen the effects of asthma sufferers.
Worried about that pretty complexion? Stress can also worsen acne and even cause some to break out into red blotches called hives.
Hey guys, did you know stress can also lead to erectile dysfunction? Don’t laugh too hard ladies; it can also worsen those menstrual cramps. But wait, that’s not all: stress can stress you out!
If left unchecked, stress can take control of the way you think, act, and feel. It can make it extremely difficult to concentrate on studying or taking exams.
Stress is kind enough to bless us with frustration and cause us to lose our tempers and yell at others for no apparent reason. This can also lead to a feeling of social isolation and may even progress on to depression.
The downside of all this is that there is no cure! There is no happy pill or amount of drinking that can wash it all away. Don’t fret just yet, the answer lies in the way we cope with stress.
Here is some advice on how “you can get there from here” without obtaining everlasting battle scars of collegiate stress.
Arrange a notebook for every class and stay organized. Make a schedule and keep with it. Schedule in three hours worth of studying for every one credit hour. Spread it throughout the week and not right before the test. Study the material before class and once more after class with a brief review prior to exams.
Don’t be ultra-critical of yourself. Learn from your mistakes; what’s done is done. It’s not the teacher’s fault you didn’t pass the test. Take responsibility for failures and don’t beat yourself up about it. Be positive. Letter grades don’t prove intelligence, just comprehension of certain material. You’ve got this! You can do it!
While taking an exam, pace yourself on the questions and don’t rush it. Walk, don’t run; if you’re late then your late – no big deal! Drive the speed limit, turn off the radio and cellphone, don’t rush through the yellow light or school zones, and don’t worry about the crazies flying by you. Racing to get to class releases stress – fight or flight – hormones.
Go to bed early in order to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep. Nothing is going to stick to a sleepy brain, so take a nap if you’re tired. Wake up a little earlier so you can have an hour in the morning just to yourself. Fix a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise, clear your head, forget about the books and meditate on the morning.
Throw an apple and a bottle of water in the backpack to ease those midday hunger pangs. Junk food may give you that pick-me-up but at the expense of a crash at the end. Your brain, as well as your body, needs a certain amount of vitamins and nutrients in order to function properly, so eat a balanced diet.
Exercising at least two-and-a-half hours a week can strengthen the body against the effects of stress. Just going for a brisk walk can clear the mind and heal the body. If you have children that are begging for your attention then do everyone a favor and kick the ball around; doing so will nurture the relationship while making you more fit for handling those stress effects.
Get regular checkups and vaccinations; if needed, talk with the doctor about any stressors that become too overwhelming. Also if you think you may have learning disability drop the fear of embarrassment and talk with him/her about getting tested!
Just talking with friends or family about the stress of school is an excellent way to get things off your chest. Don’t hang out with negative people. People with negative attitudes just weigh you down and make you look bad in the end.
Know the resources available to you before you need them. Make a list of all the possible support that may be required and know what’s out there in case of emergencies: childcare, counseling, financial aid, book loans, etc. Don’t miss out on any free workshops or seminars; they contain lots of valuable information. The student center also has many pamphlets and informational resources that can help.
So remember, stress is unavoidable, so deal with it – appropriately! “You can get there from here,” but nobody’s going to take you there. Be accountable to yourself; if something is not working for you then analyze it, make appropriate changes and then reanalyze it. With the correct coping skills and stress prevention, the trek through college can become an enjoyable walk through the park.