SCTCC students report stress more than any other factor as having an effect on their academic performance. Stress doesn't only take a toll on your academics; your physical, emotional and cognitive functions can suffer as well.
Although stress can feel overwhelming, there are many ways you can cope with and manage it. Simple activities like focused breathing, meditation, and mindfulness practice are some ways to get started.
Simple stress relief strategies.
- ROLL YOUR HEAD. Coax your neck and shoulder muscles into relaxation. Slowly and gently drop your head forward, roll it to your right shoulder and pause; roll it backward to the center of your shoulders and pause; roll it to your left shoulder and pause; roll it forward to the center of your chest and pause. Continuing to move slowly, reverse direction and go back around.
- . Wherever you are, pause to stretch your body and you will feel it loosen up and become more relaxed. Just stand up and reach for the sky! If you liked that, try a yoga class. Yoga opens up an entire world of stretches as well as deep breathing and mindfulness – all good for relieving stress.
- GET A MASSAGE. Have someone else help you relax. Physical touch can feel wonderful and supportive when you are tense. Treat yourself at a spa, pair up with a friend who needs stress relief and trade massages.
- All types of physical activity – aerobic, strength training, stretching – can relieve stress by improving overall wellbeing. Even the most gentle and basic exercises can boost endorphins and make you feel good and less stressed out.
- STAY HYDRATED. Support vital bodily functions by drinking plenty of fluids. This can reduce the physical stress that you feel in your body and keep levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, down. Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated, so keep a refillable bottle on you and sip regularly.
- COUNT TO TEN. Slow down your thoughts to gain a more positive outlook on the stressful situation at hand. Breathe deeply, count slowly and ask yourself: “What’s the best way to handle this?”
- STOP NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. In times of stress, the imagination can veer off in unpleasant directions if allowed to do so. To gain control of negative thoughts or worries, imagine yelling “STOP!” as loudly as you can in your mind. The more you practice this technique, the more it will help you to shut out angry or negative thoughts.
- TAKE A BRAIN VACATION. Give yourself a moment to remember an experience that you enjoyed or to picture a place where you feel really good. Make a list of some of the places or activities that make you feel relaxed and good about yourself. Next time you need to “get away” refer to this list, close your eyes, and take a little break.
- IGNORE THE PROBLEM. Many problems just don’t need to be dealt with or can’t be solved right now. Forget about the problem at hand by doing something more important or just relax and unwind. When you revisit the problem later, you may find it’s easier to deal with.
Life can get us all down at times; but if you’re down for a prolonged period of time with no real explanation, depression may be the cause.
Some signs of depression
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiousness, emptiness, pessimism, guilt, or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities, decreased energy
- Insomnia, restlessness, oversleeping, difficulty concentrating, low appetite, overeating, headaches that don’t respond to medication
- Thoughts of self-harm
What to do
- The first step is to seek support from a healthcare/mental health provider so they can assess the situation.
- Some of the things they may discuss include your symptoms, history of depression, medical history, and alcohol/drug use, among others.
Where to go
If you believe you have depression, or are worried about a friend, it is important to seek support from a professional to receive the specific help you may need. In the meantime, make extra time to be with friends and family. Very often simply speaking to someone who cares can make a world of difference.
These apps can help you manage stress.
- Calm – Free: Calm can help you meditate, sleep, relax, focus and more. It features a 7-step meditation program, blissful music tracks, and guided meditation sessions for focus, relaxation, energy, creativity and sleep.
- Personal Zen* – Free: Personal Zen is a fun game that’s clinically proven to reduce stress. Built by a team of neuroscientists and mobile developers, Personal Zen actually retrains your brain to lower stress and anxiety.
- Stress Check – Free/ $1.99 (pro): Developed by clinical psychologists, this app is an assessment tool that helps users understand and manage their personal stress.
- Take a Break! – Free: Enjoy the deep relaxation, stress relief and benefits of meditation with this app. The app gives you the option to listen with or without music or nature sounds. You can also listen to relaxing music and nature sounds alone.
- MindShift– Free: Learn to relax and identify active steps to take charge of anxiety. This app includes strategies to deal with everyday anxiety, as well as specific tools aimed at: test anxiety, perfectionism, social anxiety, performance anxiety, worry, panic and conflict.
- T2 Mood Tracker – Free: Developed by the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology, this app allows users to monitor their moods on six pre-loaded scales: anxiety, stress, depression, brain injury, post-traumatic stress and general well-being. Users can also track their progression in other unique areas.
- Headspace– Free: This app uses meditation and mindfulness techniques. Learn the basics of meditation, personalize a progress page and access hundreds of hours of original meditations. The app also features reminders to help you stay on track, and a “buddy system” for you and your friends to motivate each other.
*Please note that this app is only available for download on iPhone
MINI BREATHING EXERCISES
These focused breathing exercises use the breath to reduce anxiety, tension and stress immediately. You can do them with your eyes open or closed—any time or any place.
Good times for a mini
While stuck in traffic… when put on hold during a phone call… in your doctor’s waiting room… when someone says something that bothers you… at a red light… waiting for a phone call… in the dentist’s chair… when you’re overwhelmed with what you need to accomplish… in line… when you’re in pain… while waiting for or in an elevator… right before a big exam… any time you’re feeling stressed!
How to do a mini
Switch to diaphragmatic breathing: Breath deeply through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. With each breath in, allow your belly to expand, with each breath out, allow your belly to be soft again. If this is difficult, just try to breath more slowly, focusing on the exhale. Soften your stomach muscles and let your belly be loose. This will help you breath more easily. Use this breath for the four mini breathing exercises listed below.
- Mini #1: Countdown: Count down slowly from 10 to zero. With each number, take one complete breath, inhaling and exhaling. For example, breathe in deeply saying “10” to yourself. Breathe out slowly. On your next breath, say “nine,” and so on. If you feel lightheaded, count down more slowly to space your breaths further apart. When you reach zero, you should feel more relaxed. If not, go through the exercise again.
- Mini #2: Take 4: As you inhale, count up very slowly to four. As you exhale, count slowly back down to one. Repeat this several times.
- Mini #3: The Pause: Breathe slowly in and out. Pause for a few seconds after you inhale. Pause again after you exhale. Do this for several breaths.
- Mini #4: Diaphragmatic breathing practice: Lie on your stomach with your legs a comfortable distance apart. Fold your arms in front of your body so that your hands rest on opposite elbows. Rest your forehead on your forearms. Study the sensations of breathing with your diaphragm. Notice the rhythm of your breath and how your belly expands when you inhale and contracts when you exhale.
- Psychology Info: Depression Info & Treatment
- Mental Health America: Depression in College
- Mayo Clinic: Depression
- Go Ask Alice! Emotional Health
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Association for Self Esteem
- Helping You Build Self Esteem & Confidence
- KidsHealth: The Story on Self Esteem
- American Institute of Stress
- Anxiety Disorders Association of America
- Go Ask Alice!
- Stress Management & College Students
- College Stress
- Measuring Your Stress Level
- American Association of Suicidology
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Befrienders Worldwide
- Minnesota Suicide & Crisis Hotlines
- National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Suicide Awareness\Voices of Education
- Suicide & Suicide Prevention
- Suicide and Depression Student Guidebook