Everyone experiences stress throughout their life. It's a normal side effect of busy schedules, heavy workloads, and balancing a social life. While stress can provide benefits, it can also affect physical health, emotional wellbeing, and academic success. Too much stress can be harmful, especially when it occurs over a long period of time.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Stress

Healthy levels of stress can help motivate you, develop your skills, and adjust to new situations. Maybe it’s the push you need to finish an assignment or step out of your comfort zone. This is short-term and you should feel better when it’s over. However, chronic stress is unhealthy and may start to have negative impacts on your physical, mental, and behavioral health. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and irritable.

silhouette of human head with question marks where the brain usual would be

Symptoms of Unhealthy Stress


  • Racing heart or chest pains
  • Exhaustion
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching
  • Stomach or digestive problems
  • Weak immune system


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating


  • Excessive technology use
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Burnout

Tips for Managing Stress

  • Exercise: regular exercise is good for your physical and mental health. Simple exercise such as walking and yoga can help you clear your mind and relax.
  • Healthy diet: getting a variety of fruits and vegetables combined with complex grains and lean protein will help you feel full and energized. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
  • Get enough sleep: high levels of stress can make it difficult to get proper sleep. Taking time to relax before bed, avoiding screens close to bedtime, and setting a consistent sleep schedule can help decrease sleep difficulties.
  • Avoid procrastination: continuously leaving assignments until the last minute can cause unnecessary stress. Plan set times to get work done and schedule downtime as well. Setting realistic goals for completing tasks and sticking to a schedule can help with getting work done at a reasonable pace.
  • Find an outlet for stress: find an activity you love that helps you relax! This could be painting, reading a book, spending time with friends, or anything you enjoy doing.

Recreation & Wellness Programs and Services

Recreation & Wellness has lots of resources to help decrease stress through physical activity. We know that physical activity may improve sleep, decrease feelings of depression, help protect against feelings of anxiety, and improve focus and productivity... and there are so many ways to get moving. From Fitness & Wellness services, Outdoor Adventures, and Sports Programs to events such as Exam Cram or RecFest, there's something for everyone. 

Additional Resources

Page last modified May 23, 2022