Stress is unavoidable – we all expereience it from time to time. Sometimes stress can be positive, as it keeps us alert and ready to avoid danger. However, stress starts to impact the body negatively if a person does not experience relief or relaxation to soothe the stress. With end-of- year exams in full swing, stress levels among students are undoubtedly on the rise. Besides affecting your mood, stress comes with serious health effects, like aging, putting on weight, and weakening your immune system. Everyone has their ways of dealing with stress, but it is important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy ways of managing stress.
Many find drinking alcohol the perfect way to drown their sorrows and forget about their problems for while. But that’s the point – the fix is only temporary, and you’ll have to deal with your problems eventually, but with the bonus of a terrible hangover and bad night’s sleep.
Escaping our own reality by immersing ourselves in the fictional world of our favourite TV shows is a popular way to distress – but the truth of the matter is that excessive TV consumption will leave you feeling groggy and worn out. It also lowers brain functioning, which isn’t ideal for the exam period and will only cause further stress when you eventually decide to pick up a book.
Mediation lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and can improve cognitive performance. It is relatively simply to do – close your eyes, relax your muscles and focus on an object. It can take as little as ten minutes to experience its calming benefits, and it can be done almost anywhere.
Exercise may be the healthiest way to manage stress. It increases the production of endorphins, regulates your sleep, lowers symptoms that can lead to depression, boosts your energy and help you to remain calm and focused – all methods that aid you in combating stress. Regular exercise may be hard to stick to, so pick something you’ll enjoy doing; perhaps walking with a friend or playing your favourite sport.
Many people resort to binge eating to manage stress levels. It’s called comfort food for a reason – indulging in that bag of chocolate-chip cookies or that greasy pizza from Romans is tempting and certainly satisfying, so it seems like the perfect stress reliever. However, our bodies don’t respond well to junk food, and it will only create additional stress in the long run.
Smoking only sets you up to experience even more stress once the high wears off. Smoking tends to increase the negative impacts that stress already inflicts on your body, such as raising your blood pressure, making you jittery and keeping you awake at night, and so you are entering a vicious cycle of stressing yourself out more in order to alleviate your stress.
A 2009 study by Miho Nagaswa of Azubu University in Japan showed that the level of oxycotin (the neurohormone that causes feelings of happiness) rose intensely after interaction with dogs. So spend some time with your dog or take a friend’s pet for a walk if you don’t have one of your own – being around such friendly animals is bound to lift your mood.
Recent research has shown that even as little as six minutes of reading is enough to bring down stress levels. Psychologists credit it to the fact that the human mind has to concentrate on reading, and the distraction of being transported into a literary world can ease the tensions in the muscles and the heart. So instead of watching the latest Hunger Games film, why not read the novel instead?