It’s 2017 and unfortunately the words “college” and “wellbeing” aren’t always mutually exclusive. Our intern in the Marketing and Communications department has created a series of college wellness blog posts. She’s tackling everything from stress management to consent on college campuses.
Three papers due next week, a group project with that girl who hasn’t shown up to class in three weeks, two extra shifts at work; we’ve all been there. College can be stressful, but it’s our responses to these stressors that can make or break us. Someone once interrupted my mid-semester meltdown with some advice, “If it isn’t gonna matter to you in a year – why bother stressing out about it now.” And then they went on with their day, leaving me with one of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever heard.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 85 percent of students have reported feeling overwhelmed by everything they have to do in school over the past year. Here’s the thing: stress isn’t just this annoying thing that you have to deal with on a daily basis. It has physical and mental side effects that could cause issues in your daily life. In fact, 30 percent of college students report that stress has had a negative impact on their academic performance. Letting stress take over your life has some serious consequences, including:
- Blood pressure and heart rate increase
- A slowed or stopped digestive system
- Anxiety and depression
- Impaired sleep
- Appetite change
- Chronic irritability
That list is a pretty huge one; most of those things affect our lives outside of ourselves. It affects everything from relationships to academic performance. Anxiety and depression are common side effects for young adults who experience great amounts of stress. More than 36 percent of college students reported having either anxiety, depression or panic attacks over the course of a year, 9.6 percent reported having both anxiety and depression.
Unfortunately, I’m not here to tell you that there’s a way to magically get all of the stress out of your life. Like I said earlier, it’s all about the reaction to stress that we have. So the question is: How can we start to improve our daily lives when stress begins to start in?
- Breathing is a good place to start. Some students recommend doing some yoga during stressful times, focusing on mindfulness and breathing or even just taking a moment to meditate and do some breathing exercises. Some also recommend lighting up some of your favorite scented candles. These are all great suggestions that lead to one of the best things you could be doing for your body – breathing.
- It’s also recommended that you make time for the things you enjoy doing. Whether that’s gardening at your university’s community garden, cooking or baking, creating art or even just taking a nice hot shower. Making sure you take time to do the things that help you step back from your stressors in life is extremely beneficial to your health.
- Now here’s an extreme alternative: allow your stress to happen, and instead of seeing it as an inhibitor, utilize it as a tool to help you succeed. Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist who outlined how to do this in a 2013 TEDTalk. She explains that some of those immediate fight-or-flight responses can be seen as your body rising to the challenge that is causing you “stress”. When you take the time to note that and accept it, your body believes you and you immediately have a healthier stress reaction.
So here’s my proposal; accept your stress, take a deep breath and let it help you face your stressors. In fact, allow it to help you become a healthier person. Your stress is a warning sign for your body, make sure you listen!
Jade Ye is a junior Public Relations major at Champlain College. She enjoys dog watching, eating scones and tweeting.