How can I ease college stress?

Eustress vs. Distress

Our lives are constantly changing. Because of this, our bodies experience a lot of stress in an attempt to adjust to the demands of our hectic lifestyles. Some forms of stress can be helpful. This is called “eustress”. More debilitating types of stress are referred to as “distress”. Eustress can motivate us into action; it can result in a greater awareness or an entirely new perspective on things. On the flip side, distress can provoke feelings of distrust, rejection, anger and depression. These emotions are able to impair your health by causing headaches, stomach problems, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes. Many new and difficult situations result in a certain amount of stress: the death of a friend or family member, the arrival of a new baby, change of jobs, or a new relationship. How you react to it will determine if stress will help or hinder you.


Managing Your Stress

The goal should not be to eliminate stress completely. Stress adds excitement to our lives and it is a natural experience associated with growth. Uncomfortable stressors such as frustrations and sorrows, competition and confrontation are caused by many normal life circumstances. These processes can also help to enrich us and give a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. Too much stress can leave us feeling “tied up in knots” but too little may result in feeling bored and dejected. The best option is to find an optimal level of stress that will produce energizing motivation without leaving you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

The optimal level of stress is not the same for everyone. What may be optimal for you may not be right for your best friend. Also, transitions from constructive stress and destructive stress change with differing lifestyles and life stages. Furthermore, most illnesses are caused by or exacerbated by chronic stress. If you are feeling symptoms of stress you have exceeded your optimal stress level. The best solution is to try to reduce the stressors you are experiencing and make an effort to improve your capacity to handle it more effectively. Stress management requires effort. You must work with the source of stress as well as your reaction to it.


Strategies to Manage Stress More Effectively

Become aware of your stressors & your emotional & physical reactions to them.

  • Don't ignore your distress
  • Don't gloss over problems.
  • Determine what events are distressing you. What are the meanings of these events for you?
  • How is your body specifically responding?


Recognize that you can change.

  • Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely?
  • Can you reduce their intensity by managing them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis?
  • Can you shorten your exposure to stress by taking a break or by removing yourself from the environment?
  • Can you put forth the time and energy necessary to make a change by goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification?


Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress.

  • The stress reaction is triggered by feelings of danger. Step back and look to see if you are viewing your stressors in an exaggerated light.
  • Are you trying to please everyone?
  • Are you overreacting and viewing things as urgent and critical?
  • Do you feel you must prevail in every situation?
  • Temper your excess emotions by putting the situation into perspective. Try not to focus on the "what ifs."


Practice reducing your physical reactions to stress.

  • Slow, deep breathing, will bring your heart rate down and respiration back to normal.
  • Use relaxation techniques to reduce muscle tension.


Each time you encounter a stress, STOP before your thoughts escalate into the worst possible scenarios.



After you stop, BREATHE deeply and release physical tension.



Once you have stopped the automatic cycle of 'worst case thinking', and taken a deep breath, you can focus your energy on the problem at hand and REFLECT on the cause of the stress:

  • What is the issue?
  • What am I feeling?
  • What concerns me most?
  • Is the problem really so awful?


After you have stopped your automatic habit of overreacting, taken a breath to divert your attention from the stress, and reflected on the stress and its cause, it is time to CHOOSE how to deal with it.

  • What do I want?
  • What is possible?
  • What can I do?
  • What is my decision?

Now do it!