No one is immune from stress, but those entering the ivory towers of college are particularly vulnerable to it.
“When you get to college, it’s usually a fairly sizable life change,” says J. David Forbes, MD, a Nashville, Tenn., physician specializing in stress management. “It’s the first time you’re off on your own. You’re out from any kind of adult jurisdiction. That can bring an overwhelming number of choices.”
Stress occurs when your tension level exceeds your energy level, resulting in an overloaded feeling. “As long as our available energy exceeds our tension level, then we’re in an okay state,” Dr. Forbes says. “But if energy is low and tensions are higher, then that can result in a state of anxiety, depression, and feeling overwhelmed.”
College: Stress Management
If you feel like your brain is melting under the crush of books, classes, and papers, don’t freak out. Follow our stress-management tips to help relieve the pressure.
1. Get enough sleep. It may be tempting to hit the hay at 4 a.m. and then attend an 8 a.m. class, but shortchanging yourself on rest can increase your stress level. “Winging it on not much sleep has a profound effect on how we experience the stressors of the day,” Forbes says. Plus, insufficient sleep can put you at risk for serious illnesses, such as diabetes, obesity, and depression. Adults typically need seven to nine hours of sleep a night for best health. Forbes also recommends that you align your sleep schedule with normal resting hours by getting to bed before midnight, rather than staying up until dawn and sleeping until mid-afternoon. “The more that our internal clock is closely aligned with the clock of the sun, the better it is,” Forbes says.
2. Eat well. A steady diet of pizza and vending-machine fare can decrease energy levels in the body, leading to a lower threshold for stress. “You end up feeling very tired and looking for the same [junk food] to kick you back up,” Forbes says. “It’s a lousy cycle of hunting for short-term comfort food or sugar highs that actually keep you feeling worse.” Follow a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
To be continued . . .