This article was written fro St. Monica's Student Abroad Newsletter
With first term quickly coming to an end, in addition to any personal stresses, it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to be developing some academic stress. Your exams and term paper due dates are likely quickly approaching! This can be a very stressful time when you are away at school. The key to stress management is being able to identify your stressors and choosing an approach to help you manage these stressors.
Firstly, let us chat a bit about what stress is. Positive and negative stress are constantly impact all our lives. According to The Random House Dictionary, stress is defined as “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension,” and, “a situation, occurrence, or factor causing this.” The word “stress” comes from a Latin word meaning, “distress.”
Stress can be difficult to pin down because it is a very individual thing. Since stress is different for everyone, your approach must be personalized, too. Typically, we interpret stress as a negative thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
By this point, you may have figured out what your stress indicators are. Some people begin to feel anxious, some get neck pain, some just have difficulty settling down to get work done because they just feel overwhelmed and do not know where to begin. Your symptoms will help you identify exactly what it is that is stressing you out. Once you identify your stressors, you can start to look at how to manage them.
Identifying the cause of stress can help you reduce the number and impact of stressors in your life, and it can help you manage the stress that does occur. If you are having difficulty identifying your stressors, you can always create a stress log. Not only can a stress log help you identify your major stressors, but it can also help you identify trends in those stressors and give you clues as to the best way to manage your stress.
Once you have identified your stressors, you must remind yourself that you have a choice in how you will approach it. You can choose from the three A’s
- Alter the situation or your approach to it
- Avoid the situation
- Accept the situation
Alter – Perhaps you need to alter the way you are approaching a difficult roommate in order to make your living situation less stressful.
Avoid – Study groups can be helpful, and they can also be stressful. If there is a study group that is making you more anxious than it is helping you, you may decide that you will avoid this group.
Accept – Perhaps you haven’t done as well on an exam as you would like. The results may cause you stress, but once you accept them, and that these things do happen, you will be in a better position to work towards a more successful grade the next time around.
The three A’s can really help in dealing with stress once it occurs. However, the best way to manage stress is to create a stress reducing lifestyle. When you live a stress reducing lifestyle, you will do a better job of managing personal and academic challenges when they do arise.
The foundation of a low-stress lifestyle involves 3 essential building blocks: diet, sleep and exercise. Take some time to evaluate your diet. Is it balanced? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you ensuring that you are getting exercise daily? No stress reduction program will be successful in the long term unless you have this solid foundation.
Additional tools that can help you in this upcoming busy academic season are: listening to music, having a sense of humor, soothing stretches, deep breathing, prayer and meditation.
Wishing you a great and low stress month!