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Health and Wellness for the Halfhearted

Stressing About Stress

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

Our shoulders are permanently slumped from carrying backpacks loaded with books, purple rings surround our eyes and coffee breath is a rampant problem. It is week seven of the semester, and it is awful. 

Chronic stress is our cross to bear as a generation, according to a report from the American Psychological Association (APA).

Earlier this month, the APA released its annual Stress in America report, and both Millenials (ages 18-33) and Generation Xers (ages 34-44) topped the charts. Both groups reported on the survey that they experience stress levels of 5.4 on a 10-point scale where 10 is insanity and one is baby-like joy. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation is hanging back at a cool 4.9.

That was the bad news.

The worse news is that these same groups said they are not able to manage their stress well and only 37 percent of those felt that they managed their stress levels.

As the world seemingly spins out of control with midterm chaos, it is important to remember that you are holding the reigns. Unchecked chronic stress can attribute to multiple health problems. Managing stress is an essential part of overall wellness.

According to the APA, chronic stress levels can lower your immune system and attribute to depression and anxiety ­— two conditions that double a person’s risk for heart disease. It may also attribute to insomnia, obesity and high blood pressure.

After all that stressful information, there is a silver lining. Stress management means making room in your schedule to relax. Remember that you are a human, not a super-productive cyborg. Think about what makes you happy and make time for it (addictive or illegal substances excluded).  

The APA cited reading, listening to music, watching television and physical activity as effective ways to cope with stress. 

Unfortunately, change doesn’t just fall into your lap; it is a process. Many Americans cited lack of will power or time as main reasons that they fail at managing stress. The key is to maintain healthy habits while in the eye of the storm. Journaling, deep breathing and exercise won’t help you if you ignore those things because you are stressed.

Prioritizing tasks and taking one step at a time is essential. There are limits to how much you can shove into a day, and it is important to accept it and be okay with it.

There may be small habits to cut out of your routine to maximize your time as well. If losing three hours on the Internet makes you feel neither relaxed nor productive, it may be a good time to shift priorities.

One priority that is often pushed aside by college students is sleep. The APA report said that seven to eight hours of sleep a night is essential to maintaining healthy stress levels, although 40 percent of adults find it hard to sleep at night due to stress and worry.

Most of all, do what feels right for you. Bang on a drum, take kickboxing, play the piano, write poetry — live a little.

If none of these things works, and you feel like you are spiraling out of control, don’t struggle alone. The university offers free and convenient counseling services.

And next time you’re crying in front of a teacher or breaking down over the phone in a Starbucks, remember that we are all going insane with you.

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