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Rachel Responds

Stress-induced students seek help

Rachel Woodman

March 23, 2012

Samantha asks: How do you control your anxiety during stressful times?

For many college students stress is a part of everyday life.

Managing time between class, homework, extracurricular activities, work and a social life is enough to drive anyone bonkers. So with the quizzes, exams, projects and presentations threatening to stress you into a frenzy, it’s reasonable that you would feel anxious. If you’re in the market for a solution and want to know the best ways to tackle stress and combat anxiety then read on.

When stress causes your anxiety, study your stress first and anxiety second. Helpguide.org says that the first step to managing stress is identifying the sources of stress in your life. Be honest when doing so.

It’s easy to add to your own stress and not realize it nor attribute the cause to yourself. If you are procrastinating then don’t mistakenly accuse the task of being the cause of your stress; properly accuse the procrastination.

Start a stress journal to ensure you are finding all the stressors in your life and write exactly what you think stressed you and the feelings you had surrounding that stressor.

There are many ways to cope with stress but some can make your problems worse. Helpguide.org says that drinking too much, overeating, undereating, taking pills, sleeping too much, or procrastinating are unhealthy ways to maintain your stress and to follow the four A’s instead.

The four A’s stand for: Avoid, Alter, Adapt and Accept. When managing stressful situations you can either change the situation or change your reaction.

  • Avoid unnecessary stress by saying “no,” avoiding people who stress you out, avoiding hot-button topics and paring down your to-do list.
  • Alter the situation by being assertive but willing to compromise and expressing yourself.
  • Adapt to the stressor by looking at the big picture and adjusting your standards.
  • Accept the things you cannot change by looking for the upside and learning to forgive.

Aside from employing these guidelines make sure to make room for fun in your life. Everyone needs rest and relaxation so don’t plan up all of your time with things you have to do, make room for things you want to do also.

Anxiety is “your body’s way of tell you there is something in the environment in need of your attention,” states Cornell University’s Understanding Academic Anxiety study skills resource. Anxiety causes a rush of adrenaline and decrease in dopamine. This causes your heart to beat faster and you to be overly aware of these feelings.

If staying calm isn’t your forte and you find yourself feeling anxious, instead identify which component of anxiety you are experiencing. Academic anxiety has four components: worry, emotionality, task-generated interference and study skills deficits.

If you worry too much and think negatively then the best way to combat this is to think productive thoughts think realistic thoughts, and use positive imagery to keep you going. If you suffer from emotionality then you suffer from physical biological symptoms of anxiety such as an increased heart beat, sweaty palms and muscle tension.

These symptoms can be relieved with muscle and breathing relaxation exercises. If you suffer from task-generated interference then you have unproductive behaviors that prevent your success during certain tasks such as staring at the clock, getting stuck on a question, or any other unproductive time consuming activity.

If you have study skill deficits then you feel anxious because your poor study habits will result in poor grades and you are consciously aware of this. Both task-generated interference and study skills deficits can be remedied by speaking with someone in the Academic Success Center, a study skills provider or tutor.

Although stress and anxiety can feel overwhelming, the moment you decide to take control of it and your situation you will reduce it. Feelings of stress occur when you feel your life is out of your control.

You feel that you have too many tasks to do and not enough time to do them in and you’ll never catch a break. As soon as you make a plan, stick to it, and take control of your life your anxiety will subside. So make a manageable and fair to-do list for today, breathe easy and get working and all will fall into place.

Thanks for the question, Samantha. Anyone may submit questions, concerns or quandaries to questionsforrachel@ live.com. Please send them right away if you’d like to see them in the next Student Voice. Don’t forget to like “Rachel Responds” on Facebook.com/rachelresponds and follow “RachelResponds” on Twitter.

Rachel Woodman is a senior majoring in marketing communications and minoring in journalism. She loves to work hard, play hard, and use clichés! Look for her Facebook page “Rachel Responds” and email her your questions or topic ideas to QuestionsForRachel@live.com.