Friday, November 29, 2013

Carver's Guide to: Dealing With Stress

The end of the first semester is right around the corner, which means papers, projects, and tests are coming all at once.  Unfortunately, with the substantial increase in work comes a substantial amount of stress.  Some people have methods of coping with stress, but others just let it build up until they cannot handle it anymore.   According to Harvardmany people do not handle stress correctly.  My goal with this blog is to help you maintain your health, both physically and mentally, during highly stressful periods of time.

There is one thing you want to be careful of when dealing with stress, and that is lashing out at loved ones.  Sometimes people let stress build up to the breaking point, but do not feel comfortable enough around anyone to talk, so they let it bubble, and then when a close friend or family member can do something to trigger an explosion.  Do not let your stress get to this point, or else you risk damaging those relationships permanently. 

As is the case with most problems, your first goal should be to identify what is causing the problem.  A stressor can be a multitude of things.  It could be a person you do not get along with, a certain class you do not look forward to, or a deadline you have to meet that you are nervous about the arrival of.  Look for things that whenever you think about them, you get that feeling of dread or anxiety in your stomach.

This is important because it will give you something to base your response off of.  If you know what is  causing your stress, you can know when to brace yourself.

There are a plethora of methods one can use to deal with stress, but the first is to try and adapt to the  source of your stress.  This way you can still manage being around it.  If your source is a class or a certain activity you participate in like a sport or any other extracurricular activity, then find some relaxing music to listen to while you study or practice.  Alternatively, you could find ways to minimize your contact with your stressor.  However, if you are stressed about a class or activity, then this is not really an option.
If it is impossible for you to adapt to your stressor, then you should try to find ways to distract yourself just to get your mind off of it for a while.  There are a couple of different methods I can suggest:

First, try taking a walk to breathe in fresh air and enjoy the outdoors.  It can be really therapeutic to just take a step away from everything and enjoy the beauty of nature.  You do not even have to talk a walk; just step outside and look at the sky, or at a tree line, or anything, as long as you get your mind off of the stress.  Even if you distract yourself for a few minutes, your brain (and stomach) will thank you.

Another possible solution would be to find a good book or television show to occupy a few hours with.  These are good outlets because they construct an artificial reality for you to focus on to escape everything for a little while.  Be careful not to overindulge, or else you will begin to fall behind in other obligations, but in moderation, this is an excellent way to maintain a healthy level of stress.           

Writing is another possible outlet for your stress.  Studies have found writing can individuals express emotions to help recover from anxiety and in some cases emotional trauma.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, grab a pen and some paper and write a poem, a short story, or even just write down how you are feeling.  Perhaps keep a journal so you can have one central location for all of your stress release.

If you have a pet, they can be an excellent way to relieve stress.  Pets always have a way of knowing when you are feeling down, and will likely try to sit in your lap or be around you to make sure you are okay.  Give your dog a long hung, or give your cat a good petting and let them sit with you and you will feel better in no time.  This is my personal favorite.  Any time I feel overwhelmed, I just lay down in the floor in my apartment and play with my dog and let him climb on me.  If you do not have a pet, then look here for all of the cute things to look at and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 

All of the above are excellent ways to cope with stress, but be careful not to over-indulge in these activities.  It sounds really nice to just lay around the house doing nothing but reading, watching television, and playing with pets, but remember that you always have to go back and face reality at some point.   Also, as I said earlier, you will eventually begin to fall behind on other obligations to the point of being even more stressed.  Everything in moderation.

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