10 Ways to Handle Stress

When you think of stress and how much it’s impacting your life, you begin to wonder, “How can I help myself?” You’ll Google, Bing, Siri all different types of methods, but reading them you start to think, “Better said than done,” right? Being at Wake for the past four years has forced me to develop ways, techniques and coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Since it’s midterms and later in the semester when projects, papers and overall classwork seem to build up, I felt as though this is the best time to share my strategies for dealing with stress.

  1. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

I know this one is difficult especially since there are always parties and two Starbucks exist on campus. I mean, who doesn’t love that rush of caffeine or partying with their friends? Personally, I struggle with this one, but when things become overwhelming, I know I need to cut back on some aspects of my life, and this is where I start. Alcohol and caffeine have very negative impacts on our body, especially during stress – leading to a weakened immune system, which negatively impacts your health and promotes a negative mental state.

2. Invest in Sleep

You know how you the doctor recommends seven to eight hours of sleep daily? And you’re thinking “HOW SWAY?” This isn’t a hard goal to accomplish in reality. Sure, eight hours of sleep seems impossible, but the actual recommendation is between six to eight hours of sleep – which means you COULD do the bare minimum of six hours every night and your body will still appreciate you. Sleep is key to your continued health and mental functioning, it allows your body to repair itself overnight and for those people who say, “I’ll pull an all-nighter” and you’ll find that even a couple hours of sleep will allow you to retain that information you’re cramming for a test.

3. Exercise and/or Meditate

This one is dependent on the person. Personally, I’m not an exercise person; however, on occasion, you will see me running when things get tough. More than likely, you’ll see me setting everything aside and do deep breathing techniques or meditation to clear and focus my mind. These techniques can be found all over the internet (there are even [FREE] apps that help with deep breathing/meditation!) and there are also tips on how to include simple exercises into your daily routine. Some people believe this is optional, but getting your body to move and relax releases endorphins and certain hormones that helps your brain think more clearly and allow you to focus on the task at hand.

4. Relax!

This step is somewhat similar to number three in terms of meditation. Relaxing and decompressing at the end of the day is a GREAT way to get your body prepared to sleep and aid in setting and maintaining a sleep schedule. Some techniques to try: thirty minutes before bed to relax include dimming lights or using a lamp before actually cutting the lights off, taking a hot, steamy shower, rubbing lavender oil on your temples or pillow, and reducing time or cutting off all electronics (yes, this includes your phone!). Many people find it hard to keep pushing themselves all day and then abruptly try to force your body and mind to sleep, so taking steps to allow yourself get in the mentality and relaxed state to sleep will decrease this problem.

5. Talk to Friends/Family

Many people believe that they’re bothering their friends or family by unloading their stresses of the day verbally onto them. But in fact, this allows you to make your feelings, something very transparent and non-existent physically, become something salient and objectified so you can understand how you feel and thus, take the right steps to understand and cope with them accordingly. Many people feel better after simply talking to someone, whether it be for five minutes or several hours – do what helps you understand how you’re feeling, so your emotions don’t stress you out, and you can process them in a safe space.

6. Keep a Diary

Like number five, this is the same technique, except it’s aimed for those that can’t bring themselves to talk to others or just for those personal thoughts you don’t want to say out-loud. Writing these down also allow you to physically see how you’re feeling, what’s causing it and what to do next. This technique is awesome because not only are you expressing yourself, but this refrains from advice that may irritate you AND allows you to come up with a solution all on your own – which will help decrease the amount of personal stress that is added to the other stress you’re currently experiencing. Advice from a counselor: a diary doesn’t have to be consistent and daily, it’s whatever fits for your needs and your time – no one else’s.

 

7. Take Control and Put Yourself First

This step is crucial for Wake Forest students. This school pushes and forces you to make academics, jobs, volunteer work, internships, etc. all priorities and basically bump you off the list of what matters. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. It is perfectly fine to set aside school and focus on yourself – what makes YOU happy, what will help YOUR body, what will make YOU feel better – not Wake. At the end of the day, you have yourself and that’s who you should be focused on. This will minimize the impacts of stress on you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

8. Time Management/ Get Organized

This step has been very difficult for me, I should “practice what I preach,” but I tend to find myself using steps that help manage my time. This usually consists of me writing a list of what’s important/due this month and posting it on my desk. In my planner, I write REALISTICALLY what I can accomplish that night. I also write out all required readings or assignments for the week so I can possibly plan which nights certain tasks may have a better chance getting done, as well as factoring in meetings and work. Time management is something you have to work on all the time to find your niche and what works for you at the end of the day be it daily reminders, multi-colored sticky notes, color coded planners, etc. in the long run, it will allow you to manage stress based off of your needs.

9. Learn to Say "No"

Similar to number four and seven, this is crucial to your mental and emotional state. We always feel obligated to engage in activities and events for our friends, professors, families, etc. But this isn’t the case. Learning to say no is very freeing for those who don’t engage in it, simply because it’s them taking control of their lives, what matters to them, and making themselves available, for them. This also reinforces the fact that you are a priority and should always come first on your “what matters most” list. Part of this is also realizing that sometimes parties, events, and the occasional class must be sacrificed to take care of ourselves or school work. This decreases the amount of stress one puts on themselves.

10.  Listen to Your Body!!!!

Symptoms of stress related health problems physically and emotionally tend to be marked up under  generalized illnesses that don’t actually get to the root of the problem. Most of these include: head colds, irritability, upset stomachs, vomiting/diarrhea, migraines, insomnia, depression, anxiety, etc. It’s because the body is under so much stress, that it’s trying to deal with the high levels of hormones, but is going haywire! If you (or if you notice anyone else) start to experience fatigue, lack of sleep, irritability, change of personality, engaging in negative coping mechanisms, overall low health, and prolonged sadness, get you (them) to a health clinic, but make sure there is an understanding that this is stress and you (them) need a break to recover from it. Ways to recover and regroup are all nine steps that are written before this one, but the most important part is to recognize how your body is handling stress and to pay attention in case it becomes worse.