Stress is one of the most common topics of discussion today, especially among university students. Because of this, we must be aware of what stress is, how it is affecting us, and what we can do to deal with it.
Stress comes from an evolutionary mechanism we have developed over the centuries to detect danger and react to survive. This strategy is known as the “fight or flight response.” Originally, it was supposed to enhance our chances of survival and help us adapt better to our environment. However, in the 21st century, stress has become one of the major issues people experience, especially those belonging to the youngest generations. Today, doctors around the world refer to stress as “the silent killer.”
Most people who experience stress have issues ranging from headaches and stomachaches to insomnia and panic attacks. In the long term, stress has additional negative effects. It has been found to cause weight gain and loss, make hair fall off, and worsen acne. It also leads to burnout, a feeling of exhaustion and hopelessness, harming productivity, motivation, and well-being. It releases hormones that can alter sugar levels, increasing our risk of developing metabolic problems like hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Ultimately, it can even harm our arteries and organs and increase our chances of developing blood clots, suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure, and heart attacks.
Even though almost everyone experiences stress daily, most people don’t act against it until they become desperate.
Here are some strategies that help minimize stress and its negative consequences:
- Organize and prioritize. To reduce stress, having a clear time management and organization strategy is crucial. We need to know what the important things are, and what we can do to make sure we are keeping them in order. One way to do this is by keeping an organized calendar and to-do list. Some apps help organize tasks into lists and calendars, such as Todoist, TickTick, Minimalist, and many more. Also, keeping an organized space for working improves focus and reduces stress.
- Think optimistically. Being hopeful about the future can help us achieve more, attracting what we want based on what we focus on. Research has shown that visualizing positive outcomes for our future improves our confidence, leading us to obtain better results in what we want. Thinking optimistically helps us focus on the positive, reducing the pressure we put on ourselves by looking forward to the future.
- Keep a healthy routine. Since diet has a huge effect on mental health, it is important to watch out for what we eat, especially in times of stress. Foods with high levels of sugar, sodium, or caffeine can increase stress and anxiety, so it is important to realize when they need to be cut out from our diet. Maintaining healthy eating habits leads us to have fewer mood swings and emotional issues, making it a big contributor to our psychological well-being. Also, being in the habit of exercising is crucial, since it is known to relieve stress. Whether it’s joining a gym, a sports team, or spending some time outdoors or taking walks, exercise can help us become less tense and anxious. Another very important factor to keep in mind to reduce stress is having around 8 hours of sleep every night. Research shows that most college students are sleep deprived, which makes a huge contribution to stress, memory problems, and mood swings.
- Research stress-management techniques and find one that works for you. There are many techniques created for stress management, and because every person is different, the effectiveness of these depends on each individual’s needs. One technique is progressive muscle relaxation, in which muscle groups are tensed and relaxed in order, as a way to gain control over the body and be able to relax all muscles and relieve stress. There are also specific breathing exercises done for stress, as well as meditation practices and routines designed for this purpose. Many alternatives can be chosen to reduce stress, each offering unique benefits.
- Find support from those around you. In times of stress, it is important to know that we have a support system of people around us. In university, many of our classmates are likely experiencing the same issues, which makes it very important for us to take care of each other during difficult times. Also, those around us can serve as a valuable resource to relieve stress, as hanging out with friends and having a good time helps put us in a better mood, improving our situation. Finally, there are resources out there to get help in case we need it, such as seeing a therapist or finding support from the university’s counseling services.
Stress has been proven to be very harmful to our health, which is why it needs to be a top priority to make changes if we suffer from this problem. Exams, grades, social issues, economic struggles, among other things, are sure to cause stress in many people, especially university students. Because of this, we all must make an effort to reduce the toll that stress takes on us, by making changes and adopting strategies that will protect our health. Since everyone is different, we all need to try various strategies to find one that works for us, but the important thing is to decide to make this change soon.