Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. It is a natural feeling that is meant to prepare us for challenging situations, but the way we respond and act on stress can depict how it impacts us. Unsurprisingly, everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Thus, coping styles and symptoms can vary. Small amounts of stress push you to work harder but if the stress becomes unmanageable or chronic, it can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse as well as impact your academic performance. 48.3% of American college students who sought treatment suffered from anxiety, depression, or stress.
Students face many challenges, such as pressure to perform well, academic stress, and the financial burden of college. Research has shown that overwhelming school-related stress reduces motivation and increases tendencies of dropping out. 35.3% of college students reported stress as the reason for negatively affecting their academic work and 88% of college students reported their school life to be stressful. Chronic stress can also have intense effects on your body, such as muscle tension, asthma attacks, bloating, gut discomfort, and an increased risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke. Acknowledging stress triggers, your own symptoms of stress, and what makes you feel better can improve your well-being and resilience to stress.
There are also stress management techniques like meditation, practicing mindfulness, exercise, and deep breathing that can reduce the impact of stress on your body and ease your mind. Implementing these techniques into your everyday life can improve your resilience to stress.
If you find yourself feeling anxious, tense, or worried when you are stressed, then consider trying meditation! Meditation involves paying attention to your mind, then gently bringing your attention to your chosen focal point if your mind wanders. There are different types of meditation such as guided meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, and yoga that all share the same goal of inner peace.
Meditation has different elements such as focused attention, relaxed breathing, a quiet setting, being in a comfortable position, and an open attitude. It reduces stress, releases any physical tension, and improves productivity, memory, and attention span. Meditating can also increase self-awareness, help focus on the present, and reduce any negative thoughts and emotions. It’s helpful with managing symptoms like anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep problems, and more! This practice can be practiced anytime during the day and in any way. For example, you may walk and meditate, meditate while focusing on your breathing, etc. Overall, meditation works towards a sense of calm and peace and can be used to relax and cope with stress by refocusing your attention on something calming.
Mindfulness refers to being aware of where you are and what you are doing without being overwhelmed by what is around you. Practicing mindfulness involves paying attention to your breath and observing your feelings, sensations, and thoughts without judging them. Mindfulness also involves paying attention to the present moment which assists with controlling racing, repetitive, and non-productive thoughts and is an effective way to manage adverse reactions to life stressors. By focusing on the present, mindfulness can have a positive impact on an individual's well-being and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and improve sleep. Mindfulness can also be used during meditation.
Deep breathing and breathwork exercises are one of the best ways to lower stress and can be incorporated into any stress management routine. Deep breathing calms the nervous system and allows you to think more clearly and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. There are a few different breathing techniques that you may try. The 4-7-8 breathing technique consists of breathing in through your nose to the count of four, holding the breath to the count of seven, and then exhaling through your mouth to the count of eight. The Box Breath technique involves exhaling all the air from your lungs while counting to four, holding it for a count of four, inhaling a deep breath for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, and then repeating for at least four rounds. While engaging in breathing exercises, focus fully on your breathing. Overall, let your breath flow deep into your belly, without forcing it, and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathing exercises can take as long as you want, and even one simple activity can leave you feeling relaxed. For more information on deep breathing techniques, check out this post.
Neolth is a digital stress and mental health support platform that provides preventative mental health support for students by administering on-demand, personalized care to mitigate the youth mental health crisis. Our technology supplies personalized interventions that aid in stress management and building resilience. Neolth has a growing community of Student Ambassadors from 170 schools and works with schools to improve access to mental health support for their students and teachers alike. You can learn more by going to our website, following our Instagram, and signing up for our platform! Our student ambassador program and intern program are currently open for applications as well.
About the Author:
Aaditi Ahlawat (she/her) is an Outreach & Engagement Intern at Neolth and a graduate student at Emory University. She is currently working toward her MPH in Health Policy & Management with a focus on Health Management. She graduated from Stony Brook University with a BA in Psychology & Sociology where she discovered a passion for mental health, health disparities, and improving health outcomes on the business level. She is eager to work towards improving the health delivery system while collaborating with other passionate individuals to make a difference in health outcomes. She aims to integrate her passion for mental health, health technology, and strategy initiatives to improve the health system and the way patients receive care.