Stress can be a major factor in our ability to cope with college or working life. It is often thought of in a negative way as something to be avoided, something harmful, but stress cannot always be avoided and its effects are harmful only when it is handled badly. The proper handling of stress improves performance.
Human Performance Curve
The effective goal of stress management is the effective use of energy by:
- Learning to recognise the symptoms of stress
- Learning skills to control these symptoms
- Practising and using these skills
- Physical symptoms:
Trembling, dizziness, numbness and tingling, sweating, muscle tension, headache, churning stomach, weak legs, racing heart, tiredness.
- Psychological symptoms:
Worry, fear, irritability, restlessness, poor concentration, disturbed sleep.
Practical strategies include:
- Active living.
Regular exercise generates endorphins (hormones which reduce stress), release tension and enhances sense of control.
- Taking time out.
Make time for your hobbies and interests and give yourself room to unwind.
- Time Management.
Set goals and priorities for your work. Stick to your plan as much as possible to prevent over loading at the last minute. Don't forget to incorporate time for min-breaks of 10-15 minutes.
- Watching your alcohol and caffeine intake.
These substances can 'jostle' your nervous system and leave you feeling edgy.
- Eating regularly.
Missing meals means that your blood sugar will hit a low. This can leave you feeling tired and irritable and could trigger a stress reaction. Eat small meals, rich in complex carbohydrates, for a steady stream of energy.
- Get in good night's sleep!
Take time to relax and unwind before sleeping and avoid eating or drinking late at night. Try to stick to a regular sleep routine, if possible. Being well rested will mean you are much better able to tackle the stresses and strains of the day
- Learning relaxation and breathing techniques.
Simple exercises can help you to control feelings of panic.
- Controlling negative thoughts.
Strategies include distraction, like reciting a poem or times tables in your head, or challenging your negative thinking. Are you ignoring the positives and focusing on the worst case scenario? Try to rebalance your interpretation of what might happen.