Stress Article: Check Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self

This post is by the Honest College guest contributor Tara Ryan.

College is fun. It is really really fun sometimes. But you know what it also is: stressful. You’re in a new place, new peeps, new schedule, a roommate? Studying hard (maybe). Not to mention the possible job(s), sports team, clubs, fraternity/sorority that take up the rest of the time or the lack thereof. To put it lightly there’s a lot going on. A lot of really fun stuff but even the fun stuff can cause anxiety and stress that can lead to not so awesome decisions, such as drug and alcohol use, when that stress is not adequately acknowledged and dealt with in a healthy way. If you find yourself rolling downhill, there are places that can help, one place being a Narconon Drug Rehab center.

Even if you’re an “adjusted and mature” junior or senior the stress continues. You’re starting new higher level classes every semester, different internships, shifting responsibilities and that dreaded job search as you get into your final year with this unbelievable job market we’ve got goin’ on right now.

It is okay and totally normal that you might be just a tad stressed out. Wherever you are in your college process, even if you’re freshman to-be counting down the days to orientation you could use some help so: Stop. Take a breath and listen. Ice is back to help you acknowledge and change your bad coping mechanisms from stress with these simple steps so you can be happier person.

1. The first step is to acknowledge what’s going on. What are your stressors? What is goin’ on wit chu? It doesn’t matter if you are taking the maximum credits with a full time job, two kids and cat, or you’re totally financially supported but need to keep up that perfect GPA so the bill keeps getting paid. You could be juggling 15 clubs and sports, or just have the stress of making new friends (Ahhhh! Not mocking: making friends is really hard. Maybe it’s easier for you; I don’t know). Whatever it is, you have to have awareness of your deal.

See what is stressing you out and don’t compare it to what anyone else has going on. Even if it looks like someone has got “so much more” on their plate: 1. You never really know what’s going on in someone else’s world even if they tell you and 2. It doesn’t matter. The end. However stressed you feel is fine, just acknowledge it, accept it and hopefully you will continue reading to the next paragraph.

2. The second step is to be aware of how you deal with your stress (good and bad) without judgment. Do you go for a run when you feel stuck? Are you more likely to get blacked out drinking after a really bad day? Do you procrastinate for hours when you feel overwhelmed by the three tests you have tomorrow? Eat a pint of ice cream when you don’t get into that sorority? Or when you do get into that sorority.

Stress can come from “good” events as well as “bad”. Although your mind may label something as positive (going on a first date) or negative (finding out you have a test tomorrow) your body’s response can be very similar on a neurological level and you can find yourself dealing with the “good” and “bad” stress in the same way (freaking out, procrastinating, having a few drinks, exercising, reorganizing your closet, punching someone, calling your mom). Whatever you do just be aware of what it is. Start to notice patterns and your go-tos when you’re overly stimulated in both seemingly positive and negative directions.

3. Decide if you like this pattern you’ve fallen into. Are you okay with binge eating candy in the library every time you have a bunch of tests come up? Or would you like to come up with a different go-to that won’t guarantee that freshman (let’s be real, sophomore, junior, senior) 15? Do you enjoy procrastinating and then pulling all-nighters right before a big presentation? How do you feel after a stressful week with whatever coping mechanisms you’ve pulled out of your bag of tricks to make it through? Amazing? If so that’s awesome; you should be writing this article. But if you feel a step below crappy and exhausted you now have that awareness and the choice to change certain behaviors if you want to because at the end of the day it is a choice. It’s little choices that add up to the difference between an A and C, gaining 15lbs or maintaining your weight, becoming a total sleep deprived hung-over mess by the end of finals week or keepin’ it together. On paper (literally and figuratively) you may even end up getting the same result: a B+ on your thesis but how would you like to get there? At the expense of your health, social life, possibly sanity? Because it doesn’t have to be that way.

image source: flickr

4. Take action. Easier said than done I know (stop mumbling at the computer at how easier said than done this is) but now that you’re aware of what you do when you’re stressed you will be more motivated to make changes. Let’s say for example when you have too much work and not enough time you 1. Procrastinate, 2. End up staying up late so then you’re tired, 3. Eat a lot of crap all day in the library because now you’re tired and need energy and are still procrastinating by leaving the library to get something to eat to give yourself a break every two hours because all this studying at once is too much for you (Ehh.. on the train to more stressed-outville). Once you map out how you do what you do you can start to see on a larger scale how much you’re really letting stress affect you in a negative way. With this awareness the changes will be easier to make. You can tweak your schedule just a tad so you start that one paper just one day earlier. During one of these crazy weeks you can go to bed just a half an hour to an hour earlier every night because you now realize the snowball effect the lack of sleep has on your life. Pack healthy snacks to have with you at the library so you won’t have to make the excuse that you have to leave and then eat whatever’s available on campus. Also, whenever you really feel like you need a break instead of leaving to eat you can take a quick walk around campus, call a friend for a quick vent sesh about how stressed you feel, take an 30 minute Irish step dancing class. Whatever alternative you choose it will now be conscious and more deliberate which ups the chances of it being healthier, more satisfying and more helpful by making you more productive when you return to your work.

5. (College Bonus) Get help making changes. I’m going to bet that majority of people reading this article don’t have full rides to school and you, you mom, aunt, grandfather, friend is paying quite a bit of money for your education. That being said, even if you are riding through with no bill you deserve to soak up all the resources you’ve got. If you are feeling super stressed most schools have a counseling center. What? I don’t need therapy!? I have no idea if you need therapy but it would probably help to go talk to someone about how stressed you are that can help you through these five fab steps of figuring out how you deal with stress and making a plan to change and implement the changes so you can be a happier and healthier person.

Most campuses also have a free nutritionist to help you plan out better eating habits. Do you have some sort of an advisor? I think it’s their job to help you out with planning your schedule and figuring out what works with you. There are also a lot of other inclusive or discounted resources that can help you implement changes like going to your “free” gym to blow off steam instead of drinking (Okay, okay, before you go drinking). Most schools even have “gym like” classes that you can get credits for just for working out and there are endless clubs that can tie into the changes you are trying to make. If you can’t find a group that seems to help you stop procrastinating when you’re overwhelmed you’re surrounded by classmates that you can start your own study group with because you know you’ll be more likely to hit the books earlier if there’s a group counting on you and helping you along the way. All in all there’s a lot of resources at your fingertips, most of which are included your tuition that can help you help yourself.

Alright, stressed out about all the steps you need to take to reduce your stress? Here’s a quick review right now so you can get started on kicking that first wonderful habit of procrastination:

1. College is hard; you are probably stressed out. It’s okay; figure out what you are stressed out about. Don’t worry about how small or insignificant your stressors may seem.
2. Take a good look at how you deal with stress. Pick out your go-to patterns and coping mechanisms without judgment.
3. Decide if you like how you’re dealing with things and how they are affecting you, your life, health, relationships, grades or if you’d like to change some things.
4. Take action to change them (if you want). I know, I know, this is the hard one but remember awareness is a huge motivator and tiny changes can add up and make a big difference over time.
5. (Bonus college step!). Use all your 549,865 resources that you’re paying 549,865 dollars for to help you come up with and/or implement with these changes!
6. Breathe.

By Tara Ryan

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