LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 18, 2016) – Major life changes can cause stress and that stress can come at different times such as the first day of class, midterms, finals or graduation. Not only can stress cause minor issues like headaches, trouble sleeping or jaw pain it can have long term impacts on the body. Stress can contribute to weakening of the immune system and worsening symptoms of mental illness like depression.
There are many ways to manage stress and finding the strategy that works best for you is important. The seven strategies recommended are: anticipation, affiliation, altruism, humor, sublimation, self-assertiveness and being self-observant.
1. Anticipation is taking action to prepare for a stressful event. If you’re worried about a test, study in the weeks leading up to the exam, not just the night before. This would also include reading class assignments and creating study guides.
2. Affiliation is connecting with someone about an issue. By the end of the semester, there’s little a professor can do about a low grade. It’s best to speak with your professor as soon as an issue arises and discuss what can be done.
3. Altruism means giving back. It feels good when we volunteer or do good for our community. Those positive feelings are a great way to manage stress.
4. Humor, the saying is true, “laughter is the best medicine.” Take time to watch funny shows or have a laugh with friends.
5. Sublimation happens when you channel negative feelings into something positive, like a workout. It gives the mind a break from focusing on the problem and exercise releases endorphins.
6. Self-assertiveness means speaking up when you feel you’re being unfairly treated. If you feel you’re being unfairly graded or treated in a class speak with your professor or administration in your department.
7. Self-observance occurs when you take the time to connect with what’s going on in your body. Meditation is a great way to reflect inward and think about how you’re feeling mentally and physically.
Another strategy, is the Mediterranean diet. While the food itself is delicious, a central part of the culture is sharing a meal. Eating alone can be stressful, so suggest cooking and eating together as roommates or floor mates or call family on Facetime.
While some stress can be good, as it can encourage personal growth, constant long-term stress can be detrimental to health. Find the strategies that work best for you and share them with a friend.
Dr. Matthew Neltner is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry in UK’s Department of Psychiatry