Stress is a part of living, but it shouldn't disrupt your life. The following information about stress is based on an article originally distributed by CSU EastBay's Student Health & Counseling Services department.
Stress, Fear, and Anxiety
It's normal to feel some amount of stress. Stress is a natural human reaction that helps the body and mind prepare for extreme situations. At times, your feelings of stress will serve a useful function. For example, stress before a final exam or oral presentation motivates you to endure that long study session, extra practice, or last-minute preparation. The stress and anxiety push you to your limits in order to increase your chance of success.
The problem comes when you experience intense anxiety or prolonged stress. Too much stress (at a high level or for long periods of time) can negatively affect you. The trick to managing stress is to know when to listen to your feelings so that they guide you in making good and safe choices and when to decrease your stressful feelings so that they don't overwhelm you.
When Stress Becomes Overwhelming
Feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety can lead to negative and destructive behaviors. Some signs that you are being overwhelmed include (but are not limited to):
- A change in sleeping patterns. Either being unable to sleep or finding yourself always sleeping.
- Using substances to manage emotions. This includes alcohol, illegal drugs, food, and even prescription medication. Craving a substance in order to manage your emotions can be a dangerous behavior.
- Mood swings. Feeling more easily annoyed, irritated, or sad than usual.
- Change in eating behaviors. Like sleep, you might find yourself at one extreme or the other, either eating nothing, very little, or eating large amounts of food.
- Physical changes. If you find yourself sweating or feel your heart racing, you may be overwhelmed by anxiety. Tension headaches and muscle aches are also signs of stress. Sometimes when we feel overly anxious we feel ill and feel like we require medical attention.
If you feel that stress has gotten the best of you, do something about it! Standard stress reduction techniques are always a good idea. These include eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of rest and relaxation. (And don't forget having fun, socializing, and staying connected to others.)
The ways in which you decrease stress are your own. In order to relax, some people choose yoga, while others meditate, practice deep breathing, take a bath, or read a book. Some people shake off stress by taking a walk several times a week while others play soccer, run the track, or lift weights. As long as your method is healthy and effective, go for it! If you've been stressed as well as busy, you may have stopped engaging in some pleasant activities or hobbies and may need to consider taking one up again or reprioritizing your activities to keep them in balance. It's important to pay attention to your body and mind and to respond to their needs in the healthiest way possible.
If you are feeling out of sorts or have noticed a significant change in your behavior, check with a health professional. If you find yourself making choices you wouldn't normally make, or doing things you might not normally do, you may need some help managing your stress. Fortunately there are plenty of trained professionals on campus who'd like to help.
Talk to your disability counselor or make an appointment with Student Health and Counseling Services.
The SHCS department offers free individual, couples, and group counseling. They also provide medical care including health education, immunizations, HIV testing, lab work, massage therapy, nutrition and fitness assessments, orthopedics, optometry, pharmacy, radiology, physical therapy, psychiatry, sexual health and family planning, smoking cessation, and a sleep clinic.