Talking Mental Health: Resilience

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(Photo by Flickr commons)In the final stretch of the term it can be difficult to find the motivation and energy to face all the circled items on your calendar. It can seem overwhelming and you may be feeling the cumulative effects of stress.

A certain amount of stress can actually be healthy as it motivates us to do well and helps us meet challenges. Stress is, in fact, our body’s natural way of protecting us in response to an external situation.

That fight or “flight instinct” is crucial in keeping us safe. However, at this time of year, stress appears to be a chronic state for many students. Even though being stressed may be your norm, how do you know when you are no longer able to cope alone and may need some assistance?

There are many cognitive, emotional, behavioural and physical signs that may appear when you are experiencing the cumulative build up of stress. When repetitively exposed to stressful situations, your memory and focusing can be affected. You may find that you are in a constant state of worry and can only see things from a pessimistic perspective.

Being moody, irritable, short-tempered or feeling down can also be signs that are often noticed first by others. Most students accept that changes in eating, sleeping or exercise are tell-tale signs that stress is present.

For some, it’s the racing heart, dizziness or upset stomach that are unavoidable clues. It is important to remind yourself that these symptoms can be managed, and that this state is usually temporary. When it feels like these effects are causing a drastic decrease in your productivity, it may be time to incorporate some more effective stress management strategies.

We all know people who claim that they work better under pressure. If in fact this is true, what it really means is that they have a high optimal stress point. The point just before productivity starts to drop off due to an increase in stress is one’s optimal stress point.

This is different for everyone. Some can handle more stress than others due to many factors like personality, coping strategies or resilience. Others tend to collapse at the mere thought of being in a stressful situation. If you easily feel the effects of stress, it can be frustrating to be surrounded by those who appear to not be affected.

There are, however, a few simple strategies that may be helpful to get you through this academic crunch time. First of all, and most importantly, you need to cut yourself some slack. It is normal to experience the effects of stress during busy times. Recognize that you are not alone and that, although this is an uncomfortable state to be in, it is only temporary.

You have likely moved through stressful times in the past and you will get through this one. You cannot completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how you let it affect you.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, now is a good time to find what helps you decompress and recharge. Is it time alone in a bubble bath with your favourite music? Or is it laughing and being surrounded by friends and loved ones?

Taking time each day to decompress can really help increase your stamina to get through this hectic month. Many students say “I don’t have time.” But can you really afford not to?
If you take a small amount of time now, it will give you the momentum and stamina to get through the long haul. When with friends, try to gear your conversations away from stress. If you and your friends just vent about how much work you have to do, it is not really allowing you a mental escape from this reality.

Incorporate some positive self care into your study breaks. Many students get caught up in “time wasters” such as Facebook, TV, etc.Instead, do some relaxation exercises, go for a walk, make a healthy meal, grab your roommates and follow some yoga stretches on YouTube.

All of these strategies will not only help you feel refreshed and ready to continue studying, but they will increase your ability to continue working. For further ideas on stress management, check out the Self Help Resources posted on the Counselling Services website, read over the “self care during exams” article posted on thecord.ca, or drop by Counselling Services to see if talking to a counselor may be an option for you.

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