Cougars learn stress management strategies

Busy students often find themselves comparing to each other how little sleep they’ve gotten, how busy their lives are with work and studies and how stressed they are. Cougars are getting their fuel from Starbucks or energy drinks, rather than a good night’s rest.

One in four students suffer intensely from stress and anxiety on a daily basis, according to the Associated Press. Counseling and Psychological Services hosted a 10 Ways to Cope with Stress and Anxiety workshop that dealt with helping students with this issue in Student Service Center 1. The talk was led by Angela Smith, a practicum student in CAPS and a doctoral in clinical psychology.

According to the presentation given in the workshop, stress is “an emotional and/or physical tension which results from challenging circumstances.”

“School definitely stresses me out,” said mathematical biology junior Laura Ramirez. “My grades and activities determine whether I get into medical school or not, and I feel like I’m under pressure to not let my family down. They depend on my success, so disappointment isn’t a big option for me.”

Others find everyday activities to be disturbing, like geologist sophomore Ashley Boyd, who came to the workshop with her husband, finance junior Brandon Boyd.

“I’m very easily distracted since I have ADHD, and regular things in life like traffic really sets me off,” Ashley Boyd said. “I’m avoiding driving around this campus itself. I make my husband drive instead; he always does it anyways.”

But not all stress is negative.

“Stress normally has a negative connotation,” Smith said. “But positive stress can be energizing and motivating.”

Stress can manifest itself physically and mentally, with symptoms including shortness of breath, sleeping and eating problems, headaches, anger, anxiety and depression. Luckily, Smith said, there is one rule to remember when caught in a stressful situation.

“In order to make the situation easier to handle, tell yourself, ‘There is nothing I can do to change the situation,’” Smith said. “Adopting a self-compassionate stance toward yourself will help you better deal with your struggle.”

There are a number of ways to cope with anxiety and stress, but one of the most useful tools is confronting the issue. According to the presentation given in the workshop, “the main response to anxiety is avoidance.” However, tackling the situation head-on and accepting what can’t be changed combats these feelings of stress.

Finding out what triggers their anxiety and keeping things in perspective will also benefit in helping people cope with their stress and anxiety. Good health, exercise and a regular sleep cycle can also alleviate stress.

While stress can be caused by a number of factors, anxiety is a trait that can be instilled in an individual from a young age. Anxiety is a normal reaction; everybody gets anxious about a topic from time to time, but this anxiety becomes problematic when it gets in the way of one’s daily functioning.

“It’s important to be organized,” said chemical engineering junior Lizzeth Jones. “It’s also important to make time for a hobby that you enjoy and that relaxes you.”

Creative writing senior Alexandra Zubrick said it helps to divide your workload.

“Breaking your work down into manageable bites really helps,” Zubrick said. “Focusing on a specific task also helps reduce panic. Keep it small-picture, not ‘I have to do everything.’”

Smith had some final thoughts of her own.

“Rather than judging yourself, you have to recognize that we’re all human and that we’re all in this together,” she said. “It’s important to try to expect and resolve the situation ahead of time, so when the event happens, you are not freaking out.”

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