What is it?
Stress is the body and mind’s response to an external or internal event that destabilizes our sense of security. Stress can be a response to both positive and negative events and is highly dependent on how you perceive the situation. While many humans thrive under a certain level of stress for certain tasks, you may find that after you reach higher stress levels that you do not perform as well (LeBlanc, 2009). Managing your stress levels on a daily basis is important to mental health and general well-being.
What Symptoms Might You Notice?
You may notice some or all of the following symptoms:
- Increased worry
- Irritability or anger outbursts
- Feeling agitated
- Boredom or disinterest in activities
- Changes in appetite or eating
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty with focus or motivation
- Feelings of overwhelm
- Changes in sex drive
- Stomach distress
How Prevalent is Stress?
Stress can be one of the most prevalent things in our lives that can affect our well-being. In 2016, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) reported that 45% of students seeking counseling reported high levels of stress and in 2019 reported that stress was the 3rd most prevalent concern for students seeking counseling (CCMH, 2016 & 2019). A more recent study done by Harvard Medical School found that 75% of undergraduates experienced a significantly stressful life event in the last 12 months (HMS, 2018). On a national level, the American Psychological Association reported that 75% of U.S. adults report experiencing at least one stress symptom in the last month (APA, 2017).
Things you can do to reduce stress:
You may find the following techniques and strategies to help reduce and prevent the impact of stress on your wellbeing. While you cannot control our emotions from happening or prevent stressors from occurring, you can build our resiliency and capacity to manage this through self-care and well-being strategies.
- Mindfulness meditation
- Taking regular breaks
- Eating nutritious meals
- Practicing gratitude
- Connecting with positive social support
- Making time for a hobby or meaningful project
- Engaging in self-compassionate self-talk
- Take a technology break
- Practice relaxation techniques including
Perhaps you have noticed that you are already stressed. Here are some steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms in the moment:
- Acknowledge the distressing feelings you are having.
- Take a moment to acknowledge how you are feeling in the moment. What emotions are coming up for you?
- Assess what is happening.
- What is objectively happening?
- What is the story you are telling yourself about this event?
- Check-in with your body
- Where are you holding tension?
- Can you take 3 deep breaths?
- Identify what you have control over.
- Can you remove this stressor from your life?
- If no, can you take a short break from this stressor?
- Determine what you can do to manage the stressor by changing your daily self-care.
Apps that help:
- Headspace: Exercise mindful awareness, relieve anxiety, and reduce stress
- Sanvello: This app is focused on overall wellness and uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to help you manage your negative thoughts and self-talk.
- Breathe2Relax: This app has specific breathing exercise to manage stress.