Students find ways to combat stress

Kathryn Kimery

Stress, while it has the ability to motivate, it also poses a potential health risk, and for most college students, there’s no avoiding it.

Krista Toups, psychology senior, said college, especially during finals, has led to a sea of late nights and unhealthy eating.

“College is taxing, especially since I’m dealing with graduation requirements, finals and plans for the future,” Toups said. “From the lack of sleep and 3 a.m. munchies, I’m ready for the semester to be over.”

Lou Flowers Martin, counselor at the Christian Psychology Center in Memphis, Tennessee, described stress as a gauge, something that lets people know when they need to slow down or change thoughts.

Cecile Johnson, theatre freshman, who is experiencing her first year of college stress, said that watching everything pile up can make you crazy.

“It makes you feel like you’re at gunpoint almost,” Johnson said. “You’ve got all these things coming at you at once that you have to accomplish and it takes you out.”

According to The American Institute of Stress, stress events can reduce the size of your brain’s grey matter in regions tied to emotional and psychological functions, which can lead to future mental issues. So not only does stress affect people emotionally, but also it causes physical reactions.

Martin said that physical reactions can range anywhere from overeating, excessive sleep insomnia, nail biting, hair pulling and avoidance of anxiety. Head pain, sleep loss and muscle tension are frequent side effects of stress, as well.

Anastasia Sion, music therapy senior, said that stress can lead to all types of anxieties if she is not too careful.

“Stress has pushed me to keep up with my work, but sometimes when the stress gets too high, I just start to shut down,” Sion said. “I try to sleep, but I can’t.”

According to the American Physiology Association, once stress starts interfering with a person’s ability to live a normal life it becomes chronic, and more dangerous than the average stress symptoms, but fortunately there are ways to combat those dangers.

Martin recommended a balance of work and leisure to combat stress. Maintaining regular sleep patterns, exercising and eating unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fresh fruits and whole grains can help lower the risk of chronic diseases and stabilize a person’s energy level and mood, both of which are necessary efforts in the fight against stress.

The University Counseling Center has created stress workshops in an effort to help students manage anxiety.

Gil Lerma, staff counselor, said he wants students to feel like they have control over their stress.

“I hope they learn more anxiety management techniques to really help in reducing the anxiety they face on a daily basis, reducing their stress level and preventing stress in other areas, especially academically and socially,” Lerma said.

The National Association of Mental Illness recommends identifying what triggers stress in order to protect physical health, avoid stress in the future and calm the mind.

For Johnson, she said that organizing and making sense of why she’s stressed has helped her overcome it.

“If I have a rough week with a ton of stuff due, the moment all of it’s done and the stress is gone, it feels like a weight is lifted off,”
Johnson said.