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Don’t Settle for Stress

            In light of recent events at the University of Pennsylvania, it seems pertinent to talk about stress as openly and vocally as we can. Stress has always been a problem among students here at Penn and it probably will be for the forseeable future. But we’ll always have methods that are within our reach to dispell at least some of that stress when it gets overwhelming. Especially before you reach the trying-to-pull-out-all-of-your-hair-out, or maybe-break-something-for-good-measure level.

            As we approach midterm season, it is essential to recognize signs of stress within ourselves before it escalates too much for us to control. There are emotional, physical and behavioral signs that serve as good markers for elevating stress. Obviously individual emotional states vary on a regular basis, so you alone can judge whether you’re feeling abnormal in any of these criteria.

Here are a few signs of high stress:

  1. Exhaustion (mental or physical—like when I was too tired to even enjoy my Veronica Mars break last week).
  2. Becoming easily agitated, irritaed or frustrated (like when you find yourself snapping at roommates more than usual).
  3. Avoiding others
  4. Changes in appetite
  5. Procrastination and avoiding responsibilities
  6. Racing thoughts and the inability to focus
  7. Headaches, insomnia or upset stomach
  8. Anxiety and shaking
  9. Cold sweats in the hands or feet
  10. Decreased immunity (more susceptibility to colds or infections)

            Just last week I experienced some of these symptoms myself, with a buggy CIS110 assignment that I just could not get control of. The thought of my grade plummeting and ruining my entire GPA plagued me. When you feel your stress getting out of control, your thoughts may do that slippery-slope spiral. This is a sign that you may need to talk to someone else. Ask your roommate if they have a minute to talk, call your mom or even send your high school friends a Facebook chat. You never know. They could help you sort out your priorities and put things in perspective or maybe just distract you. At the very least, they can make you laugh.

            If no one is available or you don’t want to speak with anyone, you can try deep breathing. Deep breaths release relaxing hormones in the body, and if you can focus on your breathing, you’ll feel your stress-inducing thoughts drift away.

            Taking a break is also an extremely effective way to handle stress. When the room starts to spin because I’m so stressed out or frustrated or even just sad, I know that picking up Northanger Abbey or putting on my Salsa Pandora station and practicing my moves will make me feel infinitely better! And a lot of the time when I come back to my assignment, I can understand my mistakes much more easily because I have a fresh mind.

            Finally, let yourself cry. Tears actually contain stress hormones. Crying allows those hormones to leave your body and gives you time to calm down. It can be extremely cathartic. However, if you feel your stress levels becoming unmanageable it might be best to speak to someone that’s trained. It’s the professional’s job to help people, and as an unbiased, non-judgmental party they can be great listeners. They also can provide you with other resources that a layperson may not have access to.

So don’t just settle with stress! Take positive action to help yourself and kiss those worry lines goodbye!

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