Stress is a part of life and definitely a part of life for a college student.  If stress is not properly dealt with, it can lead to a myriad of physiological and mental problems.  Luckily, there are lots of ways to cope and manage the stress.  Here are some tips to identifying the different kinds of stress and how to deal with it all.

There are two kinds of stress.  Acute Stress is an immediate short term reaction to something that you are presented with.  For example, it happens when your professor asks you a question but you don’t know the answer, or when your boss asks you to work overtime.  Acute stress is immediate and short term, and once the stressor has been removed, you return to a normal state.

Chronic stress is characterized by the long term nature.  When you suffer from chronic stress, you feel it every day and there is just no break from it.  This kind of stress is often caused by something you hate but have to deal with every day – like hating your job or suffering from financial insecurity.  The chronic stress is the really difficult kind to deal with because your body constantly has the defenses up and activated for longer than it is generally considered healthy.  Unfortunately, more and more of us are living under this kind of constant stress.

So what do you do about it?  The best way to combat stress is to calm your body and then calm the mind.  As stress hits, being tuned into your body can help you calm down and clear your mind.  Start by taking some long, deep breathes to help bring your heart rate down.  Then try closing your eyes and picturing your favorite relaxation place – maybe a tropical beach or a secluded forest, whatever dream place you desire.  You’ll start to feel your body release the tension and your mind settle down.

Once your mind is clear, you can focus on a finding a way to deal with the stress.  If you are dealing with acute stress, try to find a way to distance yourself from the stressor.  For example, if your professor calls on you to answer a question you don’t know, then say something like, “Would you give me just a moment to think about it and I’ll get back to you?”  Now you have a chance to take a deep breath and think of an answer.

If your problem is chronic stress, the solution will not be as simple.  Chronic stress can lead to headaches, muscle tension, digestion problems, and all sorts of other unpleasant issues – making it extra important to rid the stressor from your life.  However, clearing your head and regaining your sense of calm will be more difficult with chronic stress.  Rather than trying to distance yourself from the stressor, the goal is to create a concrete plan to eliminate the stressor.  So if your stress comes from living paycheck to paycheck and wondering whether or not you’ll be able to pay your bills every month, focus on creating a budget and finding ways to either raise money, cut back on spending, or both.  Create a long term plan for dealing with the chronic stressor to prevent it from coming back.  You’ll often notice that just having a strong plan in place will end a lot of the stress.

Do you feel that you have a good handle on the stress in your life?  What strategies and techniques do you use to conquer stress.

[Photo Courtesy of Flickr User Relaxing Music and MeditationMusic.net and used via Creative Commons 2.0 License]