IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program

Self Help - Useful Articles

Combating Stress

Stress is the normal physical and emotional response to life events. These responses can be positive, compelling us to take action. But they can also be negative and threaten to upset our balance. Our bodies kick into high gear in a rapid automatic process known as “fight or flight”. 

During the stress response our nervous system releases stress hormones, which includes adrenaline and cortisol. Positive stress response can include senses becoming sharpened, increased strength and endurance, energy, alertness and good focus. But chronic stress can cause damage physically and emotionally, affecting relationships and quality of life. The goal is to balance and manage stress rather than eliminate it. 

Causes of stress may include but are not limited to death of a spouse or family member, divorce, marriage, separation, injury or illness, job issues, buying a house, and going to college. For the college student many aspects of college life are stressful, including classes, work, family relationships, study time, and financial demands. 

Warning signs of stress may include cognitive symptoms–poor concentration and poor memory, negative outlook, constant worry, anxiety, and racing thoughts.

Emotional symptoms often include moodiness, irritability and agitation, isolation and feeling alone, and feeling overwhelmed and depressed. 

Stress also affects us physically in the form of aches and pains, digestion, diarrhea and nausea, heart palpitations and chest pain, frequent illness and suppressed immune system, appetite and sleep disturbance, and the use of drugs and alcohol to relax.

Stress can lead to burnout. Burnout is excessive and prolonged stress that causes a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. It develops when you become overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. Burnout is indicated by extreme stress symptoms.  Every day seems to be a bad day. Caring about daily responsibilities doesn’t seem worth it. People feel they are in a constant state of exhaustion. A person moves from over involved to disengaged or not involved at all. Emotions that seemed overactive and urgent have moved to flat or blunt, and feelings of hopeless and helplessness persist. These emotions can lead to depression.

  • Help may include relaxation training or techniques, basic breathing exercises and deep breathing, visualize relaxation and guided imagery, as well as hypnosis.
  • Nutrition is very important. During stressful periods it is important to eat healthy, watch alcohol and caffeine intake and not smoke.
  • Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended.
  • Other helps may include acupuncture and bio-feed back as ways to decrease or monitor stress responses.
  • Exercise is a great outlet for stress and can be done in many forms including yoga, aerobics, walking, and biking. It is suggested 30 minutes a day, 3 or 4 times a week.
  • Some folks need to improve their time management. This may mean re-evaluating your goals and priorities, creating a balanced schedule, and not over committing. 
  • It is important to know your limits, explore should do vs. must do. 
  • Plan regular breaks. 
  • Try to prioritize tasks and break projects down into small steps. 
  • Social activities and supports can help decrease stress levels and are important to keep balance.

If stress continues to cause problems it is important to seek out psychotherapy to assist in restoring balance.  Call the IPFW Student Assistance Program at 260-266-8060 to schedule an appointment.