FROM THE HILBERT COLLEGE WELLNESS CENTER
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
It’s that time of the year again. School projects are in full swing, and finals are on the horizon. Many students are stressed, and most are losing sleep. Some have caught a “bug” and are now feeling behind. Stress is, according to Dictionary.com, “a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.” But, according to WebMD.com, it is more simply “what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to [handling].” Does that sound familiar? If so, read on.
Certainly, some stress can be a good thing. But did you know stress also plays a role in most illness? That is because when we are constantly stressed, an overabundance of epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and cortisol (stress hormones) prevent many bodily systems, including the immune system, from functioning at full capacity. Even busy college students can take the time to benefit from some key lifestyle changes in order to ward off the effects of stress. Some of the ways you can lower stress are:
Get enough sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, and sleep at least seven to nine hours.
(For more information on sleep, read a recent Wellness Center article here: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/01/understanding-the-importance-of-sleep/.)
Make a list each day, and put the most important items at the top. Check them off as you go.
Don’t procrastinate. Get your homework or important task done right away, so you don’t prolong the worrying and the nagging in the back of your mind. Even just getting started on a long project will lessen the impact of the work that lies ahead.
Don’t skip meals, and keep healthy snacks, like fresh fruits and vegetables and low-sugar granola bars in your backpack. Conversely, don’t overeat or load up on junk food. Give your body the fuel it needs. (Here is the link to last year’s article on what to eat at the campus cafeteria: https://community.hilbert.edu/2016/12/07/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-how-to-avoid-the-freshman-15/.)
Drink enough water. This can range from eight 8-ounce glasses per day to an ounce for every pound you weigh. Drinking enough water will also help drive off the munchies, and it will increase your energy level almost immediately. (For my article on dehydration, visit this link: https://community.hilbert.edu/2014/10/31/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-dehydration/.)
Stay away from alcohol and drugs, and stop smoking and/or vaping. These put even more stress on your body by lowering your immune response. (Follow this link for my article on vaping: https://community.hilbert.edu/2016/10/06/from-the-hilbert-college-wellness-center-vaping-is-risky-behavior/.)
Exercise. Take a brisk walk around campus twice, or work out in the campus recreation center. Do this at least three times per week. Look for any special programs that may be open to all students. (For my recent article on exercise, visit this link: https://community.hilbert.edu/2017/10/31/exercise-the-forgotten-pharmaceutical/.)
Humor yourself. Find the humor in situations. Subscribe to a joke page on social media. Ask your friends if they know any jokes. There is scientific evidence that making yourself smile actually increases your happiness. It is true that laughter is often the best medicine.
Talk to a good friend or counselor. Bottled-up emotions come out in other ways. Venting with a friend also helps your friend connect with you.
Some other ways to manage stress are, in no particular order:
Reading for leisure
Crafting, or following a hobby
Progressive muscle relaxation
Singing or playing uplifting music
Volunteering in the community
Caring for a pet
Taking a nap
Worship/Reading the Bible
Bathing or swimming
For more information on stress, check out these sources:
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle Stress Management:
Mayo Clinic, Stress Management In-Depth: