When pressure builds up

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How to cope with stress

Iryn Tushabe
News Writer

Without stress, some people would never be able to get anything done. It’s that extra burst of adrenaline that gets them to finish their research paper, do well in sports, or meet any challenge head-on to the best of their ability. But what if there is so much pressure and demand placed upon you that your entire system goes awry?

Last semester, fine arts student Stacy Sandford had an experience with stress to reckon with. She was taking five classes and waitressing at a downtown restaurant.

“I woke up one morning, looked at my schedule, and was shocked to see that I had three major research papers due that week and the next was all examination week. I couldn’t believe I had procrastinated that much,” recalled the third year student.

Halfway through the week, Sandford started getting excruciating headaches that wouldn’t quit no matter how much Advil she took. After a fainting attack, she found herself inside Allied Health Centre at the university.

“I don’t know how I got there. I had been studying for 6 hours straight in the library and hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast. So, like, one minute I was walking to the washroom and then I woke up in the emergency room! That’s the last time I take 5 classes!”

Dr. David Torr, Consulting Medical Health Officer for Cypress and Heartland Health Regions, says that, for most people, stress is what happens when they find themselves embroiled in life’s unpleasant circumstances. Torr further explains that stress is difficult even for scientists to define because it is a highly subjective phenomenon that differs for each one of us.\

“One has to keep in mind that the crude reaction to stress is the release of stress hormones in the body, which affects many organs including the brain, the muscles, and the heart. The intestinal system can also be affected, and chronic stress is postulated to be a factor in the recurrence of attacks in such conditions as ulcerative colitis. Effects of the blood vessels can manifest as increased blood pressure, visual disturbances, buzzing in the ears and recurrent headaches.”

Torr advises against consumption of substances like alcohol, tobacco, and medications – like tranquilizers – to cope with stress. “These may give a temporary feeling of stress relief, but they are not the healthiest choices and may have detrimental health effects,” Torr also added that binging on food is also an unhealthy coping device.

He says one of the healthiest ways to cope with stress is exercise. “A lot of stress is based in the mind and physical exercise takes the mind away from ‘worrying.’ Exercise also burns up the stress hormones. At the same time muscle tension which is a common symptom of stress is relieved during exercise.”’ 

“Chatting with friends is another avenue that benefits some. Whilst quiet meditation like listening to music and practicing yoga helps other cope with stress,” he continued.

In order to prevent future episodes of stress, Torr suggests a balanced lifestyle with very little procrastination. “A work schedule balanced with enough sleep, food, and exercise is a good strategy for stress prevention.”  

Torr also advises students to attend workshops organized by the university, which are designed to help students learn how to plan ahead for the busiest times of the semester. Also, he suggests using the counseling services at the university – which can be instrumental in equipping students with healthy solutions to cope with stress as a result of pressure from demanding school schedules, as well as other challenging social situations like peer pressure.

So, whether it’s an assignment that creeped up on you, money woes, or trouble in your personal life, stress finds its way into the university students’ life. Plan ahead – and make use of the avenues available – and, eventually, it’ll be graduation day in no time.

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