Apr 25, 2019
When was the last time you used the words “I should”, “hurry”, “tired” or “I have no time”? Or when did you last have trouble sleeping, stomach ache or irritability?
Stress is a part of everyday life
Stress is part of everyday life for every one of us, and in small doses, it helps us function efficiently in a determined and productive fashion. Stress is generated in situations where the demands a person faces exceed or almost exceed the resources available. The natural reaction to this situation is “fight or flight”: your heart rate and breathing rate increase, your muscles tense, your digestion slows down and your palms start sweating. You are ready to run for your life or defend yourself against an external threat. When the threat is merely temporary, this reaction works well, but long-term threat such as mental stress can result in a prolonged stress reaction which gradually wears you down.
Positive things can also be stressful
It’s easy to see studies, work and negative life events as stressful, and the resulting stress is relatively easy to identify. However, the source of stress can also be a positive thing in one’s life, such as a new relationship, happy events or a hoped-for life change. One of the greatest sources of stress is often internal: the demands we make on ourselves. The continuous stream of information we are exposed to every day can also generate stress. The brain does not have enough time to recover in the face of the never-ending flow of information. One key to managing stress is to identify the factors that trigger stress and limit them as much as possible.
Believe in getting through it
The significance we attach to stressful events and how well we think we can overcome them are important factors. By getting to know your thought patterns and modifying them, you can adopt a calmer and more confident attitude towards stressful situations. Rather than confronting the situation as a whole, you can focus on parts of it, and go forward one step at a time. Instead of doubting your mental resources, you can learn to say to yourself “I can get through this”. Other keywords in stress management include ‘no’ and ‘help’. You don’t have to make it by yourself, and you don’t have to meet all the expectations. To be able to cope with stress, it’s important to keep feeling you can influence events, you can bring your self-expectations into line with your resources, you can limit the amount of time you use, and you can choose what to do.
Declare a ‘stress-free area’
When facing the conflicting pressures created by others and by yourself, it’s often hard to find time to relax and reduce the level of stress. A busy life is often seen as something desirable: a full schedule suggests you are a popular, efficient and super-powered person that others admire. In today’s society it’s not easy to say “I don’t have the energy”. However, say it out loud and you’ll often hear murmurs of agreement and sighs of relief: someone else is feeling the same. When we’re stressed, it’s easy to feel alone with our problems, and feelings of shame and inferiority prevent us from turning to others. At the same time, we cling on to the idea that the resources of the human mind are unlimited and tiredness is a sign of weakness. In reality, stress and tiredness are signs that your body is working like it should and sending you an important message that you are about to exceed your limits. How about we team up against stress, taking care that our limits are not exceeded because we don’t want to hear the warning signs, and declare ‘stress-free areas’ – both on our own and together – where what we want to achieve is silence, quietness and down time.
Have a happy and stress-free students’ mental health day!