Happy 2014! It’s that time of the year again—time for New Year’s resolutions! Personally, one of my main goals for the new year is to reduce the amount of stress in my life.
Stress isn’t anything new. We always hear about it when we are scrambling to study for exams. But what exactly is stress? The official definition of stress provided by the National Institute of Health is “the brain’s response to any demand.” In response to stress, the body releases nerve chemicals and hormones. These chemicals allow for survival by preparing animals to either “fight” an immediate threat or engage in a “flight” to safety. Once stress becomes chronic, however, these chemicals can handicap the immune, digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems. Thus, people stressed for long periods of time are both more prone to viral infections and less effectively protected by vaccines. This would be unfortunate in college dorms, since when one resident gets sick, a domino effect occurs, and the disease spreads to everyone.
Stress can be caused by routine responsibilities like school and work. It can also occur suddenly in response to negative changes such as illnesses or divorce. Stress can even be traumatic due to experiences closely tied to danger.
Just thinking about stress is stressing me out! To prevent the same from happening to you, here are some tips to manage your stress throughout the spring semester and the rest of the year:
- Relax: Before doing anything, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Listen to some music; take a shower; change into your favorite comfortable pajamas. Rid your mind of negative thoughts and face one struggle at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself!
- Sleep: One of the best ways to relax is to sleep. Waking up after spending enough time snuggled under your blankets is rejuvenating and allows you to start the day off on a good note. A good night’s sleep will definitely allow you to think clearly!
- Exercise: Your physical and mental health are not mutually exclusive! Pull yourself away from your laptop and be active! Participating in some form of physical exercise produces endorphins, natural painkillers that will reduce stress and clear your mind.
- Plan, plan, plan: Maybe it’s just because I need organization in my life to function properly, but I find that planning out what I need to do greatly reduces my stress levels. This applies mainly to academic issues such as daunting research papers and projects. Just knowing you don’t have to finish everything all at once since the work will be broken up and completed one chunk at a time makes the task seem much more conquerable.
- Spend more time with others: Even if you’re not a social butterfly, just being in the presence of a friend or family member will boost your mood. Nothing beats the feeling of relief after ranting to someone else about your thoughts. Merely talking about it will take some of the weight off of your shoulders. Believe me—this works tremendously well!
- Don’t dwell on it: Problems will always arise—that’s just how life is. Instead of wallowing in your room moping about these issues (which I have been guilty of multiple times), don’t let them get to you! Face your struggles and try to overcome them as soon as possible.
- Be more positive: Smile! It’s not the end of the world. Once all of your hardships pass, you will look back on them and realize that they weren’t that big of a deal!
We have now entered a new year, a new start. Let’s make 2014 a year free from stress and frustration. Let’s make this year the best one yet!
- Exercise and Depression: Endorphins, Reducing Stress, and More from WebMD by WebMD, LLC. <http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression>
- NIMH · Fact Sheet on Stress from the National Institute of Mental Health <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml>
Article by Emily Zhang
Feature Image Source: Planned It