Pro Tip — This Article May Lead To You Feeling Less Stressed

“I have SO much to do and NO time to do it!”  

“How can I take a break? Taking a break is not on my to-do list!”

“I’m so tired, grumpy, impatient, and I just want to be left alone!”

If this describes how you are feeling, you may be experiencing stress. A very broad concept, stress affects each of us in different ways depending on what’s going on in our lives. Many of us identify feeling stressed and it can begin to feel like a daily part of our lives. However, when is stress healthy and when can it become a problem?

So What Is STRESS?

Essentially, stress is your body’s way of responding to life’s demands- the good, bad, and everything in-between. When we feel stressed by something, our bodies release chemicals into our blood. These chemicals provide us with more energy and strength. This can be helpful when we are in physical danger as our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode.

Like a smoke alarm, fight-or-flight has evolved to keep us aware and safe from dangerous situations. Similar to the smoke alarm that alerts us to when there is a potential fire, fight-or-flight internally alarms us to redirect our energy and attention towards imminent threats around us. Sometimes smoke alarms can be quite sensitive and are activated simply by a piece of toast without the real and present threat of a fire. Similarly, our bodies’ fight or flight system can be activated by exhaustion, complex emotions, burnout, or schoolwork. 

 

What Causes Stress?

Stress can be caused by a number of things. The following list compiles common triggers that could potentially contribute to your level of stress: 

  • Changes in your life
  • A lot of schoolwork due at the same time!
  • Feeling like you have little control
  • Small daily hassles (for example, having many errands to run)
  • Ideas about how things “should be”
  • Relationship concerns
  • Family issues
  • Financial troubles
  • Juggling many tasks/roles/expectations at the same time
  • Having to spend more time on demands (tasks you have to do) versus on your priorities (tasks you want to do)

References

American Heart Association. (2016). Stress Management. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/Stress-Management

Centre for Clinical Interventions. (2007). Coping With Stress. Retrieved from http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/ Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

The Stress Management Society. (2015). How Stress Affects Us. Retrieved from http://www.stress.org.uk/how-stress-could-effect-your-life.aspx

  • The Low-Stress Zone

    When our stress is low, stress can actually be helpful!

    In small doses, stress can:

    • Be motivating (A small amount of adrenaline provides a sense of urgency that can get us started!)
    • Improve memory and cognitive function
    • Help you meet daily challenges such as organizing, planning, and accomplishing tasks
    • Help us focus on productivity and efficiency

     

    Signs of Low Stress

    • Feeling content and relaxed
    • Stressors feel manageable and you can problem-solve solutions to challenges
    • Being able to keep up with your daily routine, demands, and priorities
    • You feel in control of your day-to-day life
    •  

      Ways to Maintain Low Stress

    • Keep up with your daily routine! Daily habits like regular eating, showering, getting dressed, and going to bed around the same time every night can help you stay feeling good
    • “Have a life”! It’s generally important to balance schoolwork with hobbies, seeing friends and family, and just in general, making time for fun
    • Make your own version of this checklist! What things do you need to do regularly that keeps you feeling grounded? What do you already do for yourself that makes you feel your best?
  • The Moderate-Stress Zone

    When stress starts to creep up into the moderate zone, it can start to impact us more.

    Signs of Moderate Stress

    • Feeling tired all the time
    • Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
    • Feeling more tension in your muscles
    • Difficulty relaxing
    • Less interest in socializing with friends
    • Forgetfulness
    • Not being able to find time for yourself
    • Irritability
    • Needing to use the washroom more

    Ways to Cope with Moderate Stress

    • Take a break and enjoy a hobby! Hobbies can include reading, watching a movie, playing a sport, anything that you find fun!
    • Talk to a friend- socializing can help us gain new perspectives, connect with others, and get some support
    • Go outside- go for a walk, enjoy some time in nature, or explore Toronto
    • Change of scenery- if you have been working for a long time in one spot, try moving to a different place and see if that helps with productivity and managing your stress
    • Take a mini-break! If you feel like you don’t have enough time to take a lot of time off working, allow yourself to do something fun or relaxing for even a few minutes. Mini-breaks could include watching funny clips, dancing around your room, walking around the block, taking a bubble bath, etc.
    • Enjoy some music! Putting on some great tunes while you work can help with keeping your mood up and managing stress
    • Express yourself! Write, draw, paint, sculpt, dance, sing- something that helps you express yourself in a relaxing way

    Check out the effects of stress on the body.
  • The High-Stress Zone

    When stress starts to become really high, it can impact us a lot. Of course, we can’t entirely avoid high stress situations and feelings all together. However, if we stay in the high-stress zone for too long, it can have a negative effect on both our mental health and physical health.

    Signs of High-Stress Zone

    • Getting sick more often (colds, headaches, etc.)
    • Inability to relax
    • Difficulty focusing and thinking clearly
    • Persistent high stress can contribute to mental health issues
    • Changes in your sleep habits (such as sleeping too much or not being able to sleep enough)
    • Constantly feeling tired and worn out
    • Handling day-to-day tasks feels too overwhelming (arriving places on time, completing errands, etc.)
    • Feeling out-of-control and indecisive
    • Mood changes such as depression, anger, irritability, restlessness, or overreactions

    Ways to Cope with High Stress

    • Come see us at Health & Wellness! Talking to a professional can help you find ways to cope with stress
    • Distract yourself- if you are feeling overwhelmed, taking your mind off whatever is distressing you can help in bringing down your stress level and possibly help you to think more clearly. There are a few different ways you can distract yourself.
    • Soothe yourself- soothing yourself can be helpful if you are in a situation that feels intolerable or negative emotions feel really overwhelming. Soothing yourself is a way to comfort, nurture, and be kind to yourself. There are a few different ways you can soothe yourself- it can helpful to brainstorm ways to soothe yourself using your senses.

    • Check out some tips on how to manage your stress effectively.