Healthful Hints: Getting acquainted with stress in college

Posted by Zoe Silver

 

"I just spent five hours in the library reading for my Government class. When I got back to my dorm, my roommate was coughing all over, but it's too cold outside to open the window, so I'll probably get sick too. I miss home and don't feel comfortable introducing myself when I go out. On the plus side, I've met some really cool people and last Friday at Falstaff's was amazing! I also think my Anthro professor is a genius."

…Sound familiar? 

This is the narration of many of our stories. Adjusting to life on campus is no piece of cake, but through the trials and tribulations of college life we all can, and will, find one happy place to call home: Skidmore

As a peer health educator, I am dedicated to making Skidmore a happy and healthy haven for us all. We each deserve the liberty to make our own decisions and it is my hope that we will also take on the responsibility of educating ourselves to promote our own health and the health of our peers. Adjusting, for first-years, and re-adjusting for everyone else can be a stressful experience. As college students, we are constantly put in situations that force us to choose our own paths: Will I get an A on my paper if I pull an all-nighter? How many cookies should I allow myself at D-Hall today? 

We govern our own bodies, relationships, academics, etc., so if we take the time to ease our stress and enhance our decision-making, we can ensure an awesome experience at school. 

 

Let's assume that stress is the most difficult part of our lives. A common example: "The walls suffocate me as I try to cram for my Econ exam tomorrow and my roommate's music is blasting, but I'm too shy to ask her to turn it down. My other roommate is still out. She's probably drinking… and I'll probably have to help her get undressed at 2 a.m. so that she doesn't stumble and fall. Meanwhile, my friends from home are mad at me for not calling them often enough. I feel like I'm going to explode!" Stress management is a really important tool in your first year and beyond. If you can learn it, you will be good to go. 

 

Before I get to strategies for stress management, here's a quick vocab lesson: A "stressor" is defined as an agent that causes stress. In the hypothetical situation above, the stressors include noise, relationships, etc. An excellent initial step to take in minimizing your stress should be to avoid the stressor. In other words, figure out how to remove stressful things from your life. This may mean learning how to say "no" when you've reached your limit, avoiding people who stress you out or taking control of your environment (perhaps by removing yourself from the loud room and making a cozy set-up in the study room). 

When we can't avoid the stressor, we can try to alter it or alter our reactions to it. Simply put, talk about it (come visit your peer health educator!) or confront it. Don't be afraid to assert yourself, and stay open to compromise. 

Unfortunately, sometimes this doesn't work out, in which case we can try adapting to the stressor. Try to look at the big picture and reframe the problem at hand. If you really can't get your roommate to turn down the music, think of it as an opportunity to take a break and re-center yourself. Try listening to the music and build your relationship with your roommate. This leads directly into a final option: accept the stressor. Sometimes things are completely out of our control and we just have to live with them.

Even when we can't control our environment or workload, we can control what we do with the rest of our time and how we deal with our stress. Until next time… remember to relax and enjoy yourself once in awhile. Keep a healthy lifestyle, get plenty of sleep and exercise frequently! All of these things will work to minimize the impact of the many stressors you face here on campus and beyond. Here's to a happy and healthy week!  

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