Let’s Talk about… Managing Stress

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Hello everyone! It is that time of year again. Midterms. Many students do anything and everything under the sun except think about midterms and other course work that has a tendency to cause stress. Unfortunately, college does not take very kindly to our last ditch efforts to avoid papers and assignments.

So, let’s talk about tips and tricks to stay current with class work and manage stress before it becomes overwhelming. Before we start, it is important to know that not all stress is bad. People experience a mix of positive and negative stress throughout their daily lives and from a variety of sources.

Stress, at healthy levels, helps motivate us to reach goals and accomplish tasks. After all, if there were no stress associated with working on a term paper or planning a party, would you have been motivated enough to do it in the first place? Most likely not.

So whether we like it or not, we need stress to help us grow and function. Often people need help managing their stress to a healthy level. Too little stress may lead to boredom and poor life satisfaction. Low to moderate amounts of stress are necessary for healthy growth in people.

College can be a time of finding how much stress helps us grow and develop and how to modify our stress level when it becomes too much. Too much stress over an extended period of time can result in physical and mental health problems. One of the first things to do is to become aware of your current stress levels. For example, let’s look at your “student” identity. This is something we often assume we already have in place, but later realize is a terrible idea as cram the night before a test (because your friend did it that one time and got a decent grade.)

Part of managing stress is to continue to do what works, improving on it where possible, and to take a look at what is not helping. If cramming works for you, then great. If that does not work for you, then developing effective study habits may be in order. For example, consider when you need to start studying for a test. Are you someone that can start studying a week before a test, two days before a test, or do you need two weeks of preparation?

Each of these can work, but it is important to see which timing works best for you and improve on it from there. Another way to manage stress is to write lists or use a calendar to clean out your brain and put all those tasks on paper. This allows us to free up our thinking and gain objectivity to prioritize what needs to be done first and what can wait. Be patient with yourself as this process of finding effective strategies involves some trial and error.

What about those times when you become overwhelmed? The best thing to do is to breathe first and then relax. Literally take one to two minutes to yourself to close your eyes, inhale deeply using your diaphragm, hold the breath at the top and slowly exhale until all the air is out. Continue this process for a few minutes to slow your autonomic nervous system which reduces your physical response to stress and allows you to think more clearly and to problem solve effectively.

Other tips to help manage stress and maintain well-being include: getting at least 30 minutes of physical exercise each day, trying for seven or eight hours of sleep each night and waking around similar times each day, eating a balanced diet with lots of veggies and fruits, limiting other things that can cause our body stress such as drugs, alcohol and caffeine and spending time with a community of friends.

We have talked about some things to do to manage stress, but what if you are still feeling overwhelmed and in a lot of distress? There are a few resources on campus available to all students that may help. OASIS, located in Clark 124, is a room that includes all kinds of ways to lower stress: a biofeedback machine, a massage chair, a light therapy lamp and more.

Visit the Tutoring and Learning Center Sunday through Thursday in Scott Hall 100B4. The Counseling Center is now offering Coping with Stress mindfulness workshops in Forest Grove and Hillsboro. Each workshop is a three-session series (one hour each session) with start dates in Oct. and Nov. They are led by Counseling Center therapists and focus on learning specific skills to help cope with stress.

Contact the Student Counseling Center at 503352-2191 or counselingcenter@pacificu.edu to ask for details or to sign up for the workshop series. The Counseling Center also has walk-in hours MondayFriday from noon-1 p.m. in Forest Grove and 4-5 p.m. in Hillsboro.


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