Stress Management: You’re Stronger Than You Think.

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The familiar phrase, “I’m stressed,” is used daily as a sentence by many people, especially college students across the country. From tedious assignments to major examinations, there are literally millions of reasons why students become stressed. Although stress is coined as a harmless bodily function by a majority of the population, it could actually be more serious. Better yet, what exactly is stress? Have we been using this term too freely? Can stress actually be beneficial? The answers to these questions and more may surprise you.

In a May 10th, 2012 Businessweek article by Francesca Di Meglio titled, “Stress Takes Its Toll on College Students,” the American College Counseling Association had discovered a rather large statistic in stressed college students of America. According to the ACCA’s 2012 study, they found that 34.7% seek counseling to help alleviate or overcome personal psychological matters. These matters were more than likely caused as a result of stress. In addition to this finding, when the ACCA had surveyed approximately 228 counselors in the study, many had noted an increase in similar matters. In the study, Meglio’s article states that 42% of the counselors had stated a noticeable rise in self-harm, while 24% noticed a rise in eating disorders. The rise in the serious life-threatening conditions was brought upon due to the increase of stress in college students.

To find out more about the science of stress, common stress facts, and ways to prevent stress, go to Dr. Alice Heron-Burke, Senior Director of Counseling and Wellness here at NYIT’s Old Westbury campus. Helping stressed students on a daily basis, Dr. Burke is very familiar with the world of stress and everything there is to diminish it. The first question asked was to find out what the word stress really meant. To answer this question, Dr. Burke states “Stress is generally experienced as mental state in which one feels overwhelmed, pulled in many directions and generally feeling that they are having difficulty coping.”

When people are stressed, their mental and physical health begins to decline. It can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as pressure in the chest, palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, inability to make decisions, crying spells and symptoms of anxiety including difficulty sleeping,” says Dr. Burke.  Another symptom stressed individuals complain about? “Many people report feeling irritable when stressed,” says Dr. Burke. That explains why you start to feel angry with the person next to you, even when they have done nothing. Having found this information out, the next big question many people have is, “What can I do to manage my stress?” According to Dr. Burke the easiest way to manage your stress is “Deep breathing, listening to your favorite music.  Possibly taking a walk or going to the gym.” And by that she means, “Rewarding yourself with some pleasurable relaxing activity.” Wow, that’s much easier than you’d think!

Upon other things, there are numerous ways to relieve stress from one’s life. The simplest solution? It starts with YOU. “Many times, students need to reframe the way they look at stressful events.  Just saying you feel stressed and not taking steps to minimize and deal with the stress is ineffective,” Dr. Burke replies. That’s one of the most important ways to de-stress yourself in any situation. Another helpful tip? “Following a stressful event, look back and examine what went well and what didn’t work,” says Dr. Burke. Additionally she continues, “Try to avoid behaviors that were ineffective in the future. This is one of the most helpful ways to de-stress yourself from your daily “hectic schedule.”

Stress is a vital source of the whole, “survival of the fittest,” attitude that evolutionary psychologist Charles Darwin had proclaimed. Stress has its ups and a series of downs, but it’s actually not as harmful as you’d think. “Not all stress is bad,” says Dr. Burke.  “Stress can motivate people and stop them from procrastinating,” she continues.  “Good stress is motivating but not overwhelming.” Dr. Burke says. “When people awfulize stress, they tend to feel powerless and overwhelmed and find it difficult to cope and make decisions. “A well-said statement by Dr. Burke, stress is not always the enemy like you’d think; it can actually be beneficial to you. Who knew!

One of the biggest problems stressed individuals encounter, especially students, they tend to feel alone when stressed. To simplify that statement, individuals feel that there’s no one to talk to about their stress. Students here at NYIT don’t ever have to feel alone, especially in the care of Dr. Burke and staff. At the Health and Wellness Center, located in room 208 of Harry Schure Hall, students can receive counseling to manage their stress. “If you feel too stressed, visit the Counseling Center.  Professional counselors are available to help students deal effectively with stress,” says Dr. Burke. So if you feel your stress is unmanageable or you need a helping hand with whatever struggles you may encounter, feel free to stop by NYIT’s Health and Wellness Center, there will always be someone there to help you.

As we’ve learned, stress is not like the dinosaurs. Stress is a factor that will always manage to creep into your life unexpectedly. The effect stress has on you depends on how you view and manage your stress. You may laugh and think stress management is for the weak, but actually it can help anyone out, even if you’re feeling the slightest of stressed. The next time you’re feeling stressed or you think you need to take a vacation, think about your stress and slay the dragon, because you’re much stronger than you really think.

By: Brendan McLaughlin

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Stress Management: You’re Stronger Than You Think.