The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines stress as “a state of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.” It is nearing the end of the first semester, which means you are likely to be experiencing this “state of bodily or mental tension,” or you have been for some time. It is natural and even healthy for college students to experience stress, but it should be stress that motivates and increases performance. Head counselor Stephanie Husk said stress becomes unhealthy when it transitions to “distress,” which is caused by factors such as “lack of sleep, poor time management, doing too many things, and unrealistic expectations.”

Caffeine may help you stay awake, but it won't help you relax.
Photo by csontoslea

With loads of homework and tests, important social interactions, and all the other stresses of life, what are college students to do to maintain their equilibrium? Husk says there are three essentials to avoiding stress: (1) getting eight or more hours of sleep, (2) eating healthy and (3) exercising regularly. “The basics really do help,” she said. As students, you have heard this advice time and time again, but Husk said, “If you take the time to do these things, you will actually have more time to accomplish other things.” In those times when everything seems completely overwhelming, your heart starts racing, and you feel as if you cannot think clearly, Husk has one word: “breathe.” Harvard Health Publications states that under major stress, “Your heart beats faster, sometimes up to five times as quickly as normal.” In times of panic, Husk said, “We don’t make good decisions, because we’re not getting oxygen in our body. Breathe in for three to four seconds and then exhale. Doing this for a few minutes results in a quick stress reducer.” Husk added these extra tips to reducing and avoiding stress:
  • Resolve any conflicts between family, professors, roommates, etc. Anger takes a lot of energy from the body.
  • If you feel you don’t have time to do a full exercise routine, take a 20- minute walk. This will clear your head.
  • Avoid all-nighters. No explanation needed.
  • Minimize your caffeine intake. “It is a stimulant that kicks you into stress,” she said.
  • Be consistent with your time of prayer, Bible reading, and reflection.
  • Keep the Sabbath when you can. “Take 24 hours to rest and focus on the Lord,” Husk says. “People think they don’t have time, but when we honor God, everything else still gets done,” she adds.