Stress is a normal response to the pressures and demands of daily living. It is the feeling that is created when we react to events in our lives, like study, job requirements, family matters and financial concerns. It is also the body's way of preparing for coming events by creating focus, strength, stamina and often heightened alertness.
Stress can affect your ability to function when it becomes greater than your coping skills can manage and may then stop you from achieving your goals. However, it can be helpful when it is within your optimum range, as it creates a sense of interest, challenge, excitement and the motivation we need to achieve our goals.
This resource is designed to help you better understand the way stress works and offer strategies to help you manage the stress in your life.
The body responds to stress by triggering the nervous system and releases hormones of adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. This speeds up the heart and your breathing, as well as significantly increases your blood pressure and metabolism. Your muscle tension increases putting your body on alert, your pupils dilate to improve your sight and your perspiration rate increases to cool the body. These physical changes prepare you to be able to react quickly and effectively to handle the pressure of the moment - the 'fight' or 'flight' response.
The fight response can be constructive - making positive changes, or it can be destructive - lashing out aggressively. Similarly, the flight response can be constructive, like leaving a physically threatening situation - or destructive, like 'escaping' by getting drunk to avoid facing the issue.
The following are some strategies that can help you to look after your mind and body, and in turn assist you to better control behaviours that result from too much stress.
- tune in to early warning signals that your stress levels are building up so you can act to reduce them. Some examples of early warning signals are: jaw clenching, tight stomach muscles, irritability, forgetfulness, sweaty hands and rapid breathing
- develop relaxation techniques, like breathing slowly and deeply for a time to help reduce muscle tension and your stress response
- eat healthy food at regular times
- exercise, even if it's just a 10 minute walk each day
- keep a regular sleep pattern and get sufficient sleep
- focus on what you can control and don't waste time/energy on what you have no control over
- think positively about yourself and your achievements
- use alternative perspectives to find different ways of
understanding what is happening to you and positive
self-talk to coach yourself. Some examples are:
- why worry about what has never happened and probably never will
- forget past disappointments and get on with the rest of my life
- today is a new day and I can do things differently
- consider lowering your expectations if they are putting undue pressure on you
- take time out to visualize a calm and peaceful place - use your imagination to go there for a while and as many senses as you can whilst imagining yourself in this place
- compete against yourself, not those around you and aim for your personal best and to do better each time
- develop, keep and use your sense of humour
- use spirituality and/or your belief system to find a sense of calm
- work on effective time management by planning ahead and allowing enough time to get tasks done by mapping out how much time you need for each on a planner
- use 'to do' lists and set priorities to help you achieve your goals
- be open and honest with people, rather than hiding your thoughts and feelings, as this can cause you to 'stew' on them
- seek guidance and support from family, friends, lecturers or counsellors instead of 'bottling up' your feelings, as talking with someone can assist you to clarify and get perspective on the situation
- when you are stressed try to avoid contact with other stressed people, as this may compound the problem
- create a balanced lifestyle for yourself and allow time for recreation and relaxation
- limit your alcohol, caffeine and other drug intake, as these only mask the stress and don't deal with the problem
- reward yourself when you reach your achievements and goals
- Time/workload management
- Student lifestyle
- Staying motivated
- Beyondblue Reducing Stress fact sheet
- Youth Beyondblue Dealing with Stress fact sheet
- ReachOut Coping Skills fact sheet
If you require further assistance, please make an appointment with a counsellor in the Learning and Teaching Unit on your campus.
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