Overview of Stress

Stress is a part of day-to-day living. As college students you may experience stress meeting academic demands, adjusting to a new living environment, or developing friendships. However, the stress you experience is not necessarily harmful. Eustress (mild to moderate stress) can act as a motivator and energizer. However, distress (high levels of stress) can result in medical or social problems.

Symptoms of Negative Stress

There are several signs and symptoms that you may notice when you are experiencing stress. These signs and symptoms fall into four categories: Feelings, Thoughts, Behavior, Physiology and Academic Performance. When you are under stress, you may experience one or more of the following:

  • Feelings
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Irritability
  • Behavior
  • Stuttering and Other Speech Difficulties
  • Acting Impulsively
  • Starting Easily
  • Increasing Use of Drugs and Alcohol
  • Being Accident Prone
  • Losing Your Appetite or Overeating
  • Academic Performance
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Decreased ability to store information
  • Difficulty with problem solving
  • Thoughts
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Fear of Failure
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Physiology
  • Perspiration/Sweaty Hands
  • Increased Heartbeat
  • Tiring Easily
  • Sleeping Problems
  • Diarrhea/Indigestion/Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of Appetite or Overeating
  • Susceptibility to Illness

What Can Be Done

Support Yourself During Stress

There are many things you can do to support your ability to handle and recover from stress.

  • Get adequate sleep (7-9 hours of sleep) with 20-30 minute naps to boost your alertness, productivity and concentration. Learn about more sleep and napping tips.
  • Include physical activity into your daily routine (at minimum, 3 times/week, 20-30 minutes). Break your 30 minutes of physical activity into 10 minute bouts to make it easier to fit into your daily routine. Learn about more physical activity resourcesincluding the Physical Activity Map for campus and community parks, gyms, pools, clubs, routes, trails, classes and much more to help you stay healthy and active.
  • Eat three or more small to medium meals on a regular schedule with good nutrition, including fruits and veggies, to maintain a balanced energy and coping level. Learn more about Healthy Eating on campus.
  • Take care of your body by avoiding excess sugar, caffeine (coffee, cola, tea), nicotine, alcohol, drugs, etc.
  • Gain or evaluate perspective. Sometimes how you look at things can greatly increase or reduce their stressfulness.
  • Use time management techniques to avoid becoming swamped.The Student Academic Success Center holds workshops on time management along with other study skills
  • Be sure to have an emotional outlet. Talk to others about the stress.
  • Be kind and gentle to yourself.
  • Make time for fun and other pleasurable activities.
  • Learn relaxation exercises or meditation.
  • Financial burdens can often trigger stress. Learn more about these campus resources that offer helpful tips:
  • Food Insecurity Health Topic
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships

Learn a Quiet Relaxation Response to Deal with Stress

  1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Deeply relax all muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep all muscles relaxed.
  4. Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word, "one" silently to yourself. For example, breathe in...out, "one," in...out, "one," etc. Breathe easily and naturally. You might also say the words "calm" or "let go" as you exhale.
  5. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. As you feel yourself relax, you could try to visualize your favorite place -- a beach, lake, mountain stream, etc. Try to picture it in detail and recall feelings of peace and contentment while being there. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes open. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
  6. Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them and return to repeating "one." With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours of any meal, since the digestive process seems to interfere with the elicitation of the relaxation response.