Beating stress comes from understanding, developing good habits



Column by Brandy Reeves

It is almost finals week and that means examinations and final projects. For many students, this can be a very stressful time of year.

Stress is any physical, mental or emotional adjustment of one’s well-being caused by an external stimulus known as a stressor. Stress is the body’s physiological reaction to these stressors.

There are many different definitions of stress; not everyone experiences stress in the same way. There are good and bad types of stress.

Long-term stress can be bad and can lead to other issues, such as certain health issues and depression.

Short-term stress, such as before a test or presentation, may be helpful for some people; it may act as motivation to help people perform at their best.

It can, however, cause people to become distracted or be unable to think clearly, and can also decrease enjoyment in certain activities and situations.

The key is to understand the difference between long-term and short-term stress.

Short-term stress often occurs in quick “bursts” in reaction to something that you are experiencing. Signs of short-term stress include:

  • Heart rate and breathing increase
  • Feeling sick to your stomach or having “butterflies”
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle tightening, feeling tense
  • Increased sweat production

Long-term stress tends to have a greater impact on the body. Signs of long-term stress include:

  • Change in appetite (eating more or less than before)
  • Change in sleep habits (getting too much or too little sleep)
  • Feeling constantly worn out and tired
  • Lowering your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness

Approximately 40 percent of college students reported more than average stress in the last 12 months (ACHA, 2008). There are a number of things that can cause stress for college students.  These include:

  • School work, tests, jobs, relationships — parents, friends, significant others
  • Being involved in organizations
  • Graduation/getting a job after graduation
  • Applying to graduate school
  • Financial responsibilities

These causes of stress can vary between individuals and could change depending on certain factors in a person’s life.

Stress can have an impact on many aspects of a person’s life. There are physical, mental, emotional, and social side effects of stress.


  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion
  • Sore neck/shoulders/back
  • Teeth grinding
  • Fatigue


  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor attitude
  • Confusion
  • Poor concentration


  • Feeling anxious
  • General irritability
  • Mood swings/feeling “the blues”
  • Worrying
  • Depression
  • Social
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Isolation
  • Lashing out
  • Resentment

The first step to overcoming and dealing with stress is to identify what is causing the stress. Once identified, steps can be taken to reduce or eliminate the cause of stress.

You may find it helpful to work with a friend or family member to help you cope with stress. They may be able to help you eliminate or decrease the cause of stress in your life. You can also talk to someone in UHS Behavioral Health (323-5511) or the Counseling Center (257-8701) to learn how to cope with stress.  There are other ways to reduce or prevent stress in a person’s life.

Time management

  • Set goals
  • Create a schedule
  • Make a to-do list
  • Exercise at least 20-30 minutes a day of vigorous activity

Eat right

  • Eat well-balanced meals — include plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Eat regularly (this can help with energy levels)


  • Get plenty of sleep (6.5 – 8 hours a night)
  • Avoid caffeine, which can make symptoms worse
  • Reduce alcohol, which could also make symptoms of stress worse
  • Try different relaxation techniques
  • Yoga, meditation or Pilates
  • Take a warm bath or shower
  • Attend a stress management workshop at the Counseling  and Testing Center

It is important for individuals to find the right stress relief methods for them. Everyone is different and will respond to stress relief methods differently.

Sometimes when people experience too much stress, it may lead to other issues, such as anxiety or depression. Depression is a disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a chronic illness that requires long-term treatment.

According to a 2008 study, 30 percent of college students reported in the last 30 days feeling so depressed that it was hard to function (ACHA).

Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness or unhappiness, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, and more.

Depression is a serious illness that should be treated by a professional. If you think you or a friend may be depressed, contact the Counseling Center at (859) 257-8701 or Behavioral Health Service at (859) 323-5511 to schedule an appointment.