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Section I–Common Health Problems - Stress

HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

Table of Contents

 Section I–Common Health Problems

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“A friend of mine
had 9 papers to write in 2 days. We all watched her eat 25 peanut butter
cups and go into a strange laughing fit we called “crack up!”

M., University of Colorado

College years can be great fun. They can also be filled with a lot of
stress. You have to deal with a lot of changes. These include:

Separation from home and friends
Adjusting to a new place to live, which can be small, noisy,
cluttered, and lack privacy
Academic overload and financial demands
Competition, fear of failure, and making career choices

Stress is the way you react to these and other changes. Stress can make
you more productive. It can make you study harder to get good grades. High
stress levels, though, can make you less productive.

Signs & Symptoms

Physical symptoms of stress include
increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, tense muscles,
sleeping poorly, and changes in appetite.

Emotional reactions include irritability,
anger, losing your temper, and lack of concentration.


Prevention and self-care measures deal with most cases of stress. When
these are not enough, counseling and/or medical care may be needed.
Counseling services at your school may be free.

Questions to Ask

Are you so distressed that you have
recurrent thoughts of suicide or death and/or do you have impulses or plans
to commit violence?

Are you abusing alcohol and/or drugs
(illegal or prescription) to deal with stress?


Do you have any of these problems often?

  • Anxiety

  • Nervousness

  • Crying spells

  • Confusion about how to handle your

Do you withdraw from friends, relatives, and
coworkers and/or blow up at them at the slightest annoyance?

Do you suffer from a medical illness
that you are unable to cope with or leads you to neglect proper

Have you been a part of a traumatic
event in the past (e.g. rape or assault) and now experience any of the
  • Flashbacks (reliving the stressful event), painful memories,
  • Feeling easily startled and/or irritable
  • Feeling "emotionally numb" and detached from others and the
    outside world
  • Having a hard time falling asleep and/or staying asleep
  • Anxiety and/or depression



Listen to music that you find soothing while at a quiet, calm
place. Meditate.
Get regular exercise.
Get as much sleep and rest as you can.
Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day.
Reduce noise in your environment.
Eat healthy foods. Avoid foods high in fat and sugar. Eat at
regular times. Don't skip meals.
Take a vitamin/mineral supplement that gives 100% of "Daily
Values" for nutrients. Don't take ones marked "Stress Formula" on the
label. High doses of some nutrients in these, such as vitamin B6,
can be harmful.
Limit caffeine. It causes anxiety and increases the stress response.
Avoid nicotine and other stimulants, such as No-Doz and diet pills.

Talk about your troubles with family,
friends, or a member of the clergy.

Balance work and play. Plan social and extracurricular activities in
the time you have left after class, work, and sleep. Don't take on more
activities than you can reasonably do in a given day or week. Set
Take charge. Although you can't control other people's actions, you
can control your response.
Don't try to please everyone. You can't.
Set up and maintain good study habits. Get prepared for tests and
papers throughout the course of the class so you don't need to cram for
them the night before they are due.
Reward yourself with little things that make you feel good.
Help others.
Don't suppress having a good cry. Tears can help cleanse the body of
substances that form under stress. Tears also release a natural
pain-relieving substance from the brain.
Do relaxation exercises daily. Good ones include visualization
(imagining a soothing, restful scene), deep muscle relaxation (tensing and
relaxing muscle fibers), meditation, and deep breathing.
Count to 10 when you're so upset you want to scream. This gives
you time to reflect on what's bothering you and helps to calm you
Modify your environment to get rid of or manage your exposure to
Rehearse for stressful events. Imagine yourself feeling calm and
confident in an anticipated stressful situation.
View changes as positive challenges. Don't get down on yourself if
you don't do well on a test. Plan to be better prepared next time. Ask
your academic advisor or others for help.
When a difficult problem is out of control, accept it until
changes can be made.
Escape for a little while. Watch a movie, visit a museum, etc.
Laugh a lot. Keep a sense of humor.
Take a warm shower or bath.
Don't drink alcohol or take drugs to deal with stress. Have a warm
cup of herbal tea.

For Information, Contact:

  • Your school's Student Affairs Office,
    Financial Aid Office, Career Development Office, etc.
  • Your school's Student Counseling Service, Mental Health Service, or
    Student Health Service
  • Stress Management and Emotional Wellness

6th edition. American Institute for Preventive Medicine
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December 08, 2005