Stress can be Detrimental if Ignored

Amber 5By Amber Sampson

For college students, stress can either plant a seed of destruction or spring things in to motion. Managing stress relies on understanding how the body responds to it and how the mind can fix it.

“Feeling stressed acts as a warning, requiring us to take some action,” says Michael Bakst, a professor of psychology at the College of Southern Nevada. “Stress— in and of itself— knocks us out of balance, and our assessment allows us to differentiate between stress that motivates us and that which can harm us.”

According to Bakst, an endocrinologist named Hans Selye created a model called the General Adaptation Syndrome. This process explains how the body reacts to stress. It includes three stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion.

The alarm stage better known as the fight or flight response alerts individuals to stressors. Examples of physical symptoms in this stage include: dry mouth, feeling nauseous and a fast heart rate.

“Whenever I get stressed I tend to get bad headaches, stomach aches or even skin irritation,” says Karen Castillo, a CSN student. “I also find myself feeling more sensitive.”

In the resistance stage, people develop coping mechanisms to deal with internal stress, according to Bakst. Students like Castillo practice visualization to minimize this.

“Thinking of the end result always helps me motivate myself,” Castillo says. “Thinking if I get that ‘A’ it will all be worth it. Pushing myself to get better grades than last semester gives me that extra push I need.”

CSN Student Eric Angel Cartagena uses exercise to his advantage.

“I’ll feel tired but I’ll go to the gym and work out,” Cartagena says. He likes the feeling of being tired physically to get his mind off of being tired mentally.

According to Bakst, exercising releases neurotransmitters called endorphins to naturally relieve the body of stress.

After the resistance stage, the body needs to replenish the energy it lost while in the alert stage, Bakst says.

The exhaustion stage begins when overworked students fail to continue coping well to stress.

“If stress sustains, it can deplete the body of its store of energy, which can hurt us and in some cases may even result in death,” Bakst says. “Harmful and unrelenting stress can exhaust our glucose levels and this can cause the body to fail.”

According to CSN’s Counseling and Psychological Services, a lack of sleep makes it easier for stress to weaken the immune system. Students should create a reasonable sleep schedule to ensure they get enough rest.

Students should pay attention to their internal alert systems: their feelings. According to Bakst, feelings are like, “A thermostat allowing us to adjust the temperature of our emotions to help us cope with the stress around us.” Students should recognize their warning signs of stress to create healthy coping strategies like exercising and meditating. Crafting a circle of trustworthy people to talk to in moments of pressure may also help.

A more natural way to deal with stress is to laugh. According to the American Psychological Association’s website, laughing and smiling breaks down tension.

CAPS lists Progressive Muscle Relaxation and deep breathing as good ways to relieve stress. PMR allows students to shake off pre-exam stress by tensing and relaxing muscles.

More techniques exist including: positive self-talk, setting realistic goals and taking time away.

Not all stress is bad; it motivates people too.

Bakst says, stress management should be about, “Gaining perspective on the stressor.” One way to accomplish this is by thinking more positively about the stressor.

“The other way to assess stress is to view it as a problem that creates an opportunity for action,” Bakst says. “This would allow us to restructure the stressor and take this problem and make it a challenge from which we can grow.”

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