Too much stress can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. Recurrent physical and psychological stress can diminish self-esteem, decrease interpersonal and academic effectiveness, and create a cycle of self-blame and self-doubt.
One of the most important things you can do is to recognize when your stress levels are building. The amount of stress that you can tolerate before you become distressed varies with your life situation and your age. A critical first step in coping with stress is taking stock of the stressors in your life. If you are unsure about your sources of stress, complete the Student Stress Checklist.
Student Stress Checklist
After you have identified the sources of your stress, review the Tips for Stress Management and identify the ones that may be most helpful to you.
Because each person is unique, some of these stress management strategies will be more helpful for you than others, and some will be new skills that require practice to be effective. Think about learning to ride a bicycle. There was a time when this was a new skill and felt very unnatural and awkward. You probably needed help at first. With some coaching and practice, stress management, like cycling or any other skill, becomes easier and more effective.
The next time you feel uptight, try taking a minute to slow down and breathe deeply. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Then slowly exhale as you count to 10. The more you practice deep breathing, the more effective a stress-reduction technique it becomes. To help you practice, try listening to our audio guide to deep breathing
Trying to take care of everything at once can seem overwhelming, and, as a result, you may not accomplish anything. Instead, make a list of what tasks you have to do. Then do one at a time, checking them off as they're completed. Give priority to the most important ones and do those first. If a particularly unpleasant task faces you, tackle it early in the day and get it over with; the rest of your day will be much less stressful.
Most importantly, do not overwork yourself. Resist the temptation to schedule things back-to-back. All too often we underestimate how long things will take. Too much studying is actually inefficient and can lead to burnout. Recognize when you are most stressed and allow yourself some reasonable breaks. When things feel especially difficult, take a walk or otherwise change your scenery.
You can also access other guided imagery exercises by visiting CMHC's MindBody Lab.
Try to find something you enjoy and make regular time for it. Running, walking or swimming are good options for some people, while others prefer dance or martial arts - all are available through Recreational Sports and UT's Informal Classes.
Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress. Like a car running low on gas, if you are irritable and tense from lack of sleep or not eating right, you will be less able to go the distance in dealing with stressful situations.
Examples of positive moments:
Our Stress Recess Website offers more in-depth guidance and practical (but fun) tips on ways to manage stress.