Stress can be a normal and necessary part of everyone’s lives. It is the body’s natural response to challenges that arise. In college, students often face new challenges that can be exciting, but may also cause some stress. Managing this stress in a healthy way is crucial for academic success and personal wellbeing as a student. The following are resources designed to assist students in coping with stress.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Stress can be a physical reaction, but it also affects emotions, behavior, and cognition. While everyone experiences stress in different ways, it is important to understand and identify common signs and symptoms.
- Headaches and/or other muscle pains
- Chest pains and/or rapid heartbeat
- Upset stomach
- Sleep disturbances
- Shortness of breath
- Change in appetite
- Overeating and/or undereating
- Social withdrawal
- Avoidance of tasks and/or responsibilities
- Increased use of drugs/alcohol
- Nervous behaviors such as fidgeting or nail-biting
- Irritability and/or anger
- Loneliness and/or isolation
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
- Forgetful and/or disorganized
- Problems focusing or concentrating
- Constant worry
- Memory difficulty
Food can help manage stress in many ways. Certain foods can boost hormones in the brain, and assist in strengthening the immune system and lowering blood pressure. The following are some of these foods:
Whole Grains/Complex Carbs:
Complex carbs assist the brain in making serotonin (a chemical that assists with mood regulation). They also contain vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Good choices include whole-grain bread, pasta, and old-fashioned oatmeal.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help reduced stress and anxiety, boost concentration, and improve mood. Good choices include avocado, salmon, and tuna.
Often, drinking a warm beverage can increase feelings of calming. Herbs such as lavender and chamomile have been shown to have relaxing effects. Tea may also lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Nuts and Seeds:
Nuts have many nutrients including vitamin B that can help reduce stress. Nuts and seeds are also high in magnesium that has been linked to better anxiety management. Good choices include pistachios, almonds, and walnuts
High levels of vitamin C may help with stress levels and strengthen the immune system. Good choices include oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and may help reduce levels of stress hormones. Look at the label on the chocolate bar to ensure there are only two to three ingredients such as cacao beans, can sugar, and cocoa butter.
Probiotics support gut health and improve digestion and absorption of nutrients. Gut health may assist with improving anxiety, depression, and mood. Good choices include yogurt, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
High fiber diets may be linked with reduced anxiety, depression, and stress. They also may help with regulating blood sugar. Good choices include kale, broccoli, green beans, and berries.
Meditation, Relaxation, and Other Guided Techniques
Guided meditation and relaxation techniques can help reduce the effects of stress. These techniques trigger the body’s relaxation response and assists in preventing damage from the physical effects of stress. Practicing meditation may also help with refocusing thoughts, regulating blood pressure and heart rate, improving immune function, and much more. These practices can also bring long-term resilience if completed regularly. The following are free videos that walk users through some basic meditation and relaxation techniques.