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ISSUE 120 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 11/3/2006

Simple tips to avoid stressing out

By Lauren Radomski
Variety Editor


Friday, November 3, 2006

Midterms may be over, but one thing is certain: Oles are still stressed. While stress is not solely a St. Olaf phenomenon, it feels heightened at a place where many students juggle multiple majors, a handful of extracurricular activities – heaven forbid you're in just one – and sometimes extra research, political campaigning or an internship just for good measure. With that in mind, here is a bit about stress and some ways to address it.

While causes of stress vary among different people, common stressors include change in habits, relationship concerns and work.

According to the American Institute of Stress, effects often include headache, stomachache, trembling or fidgeting, grinding teeth or increased irritability, among other things.

Forty-three percent of adults suffer adverse health effects due to stress, which has been linked to all the leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents and suicide.

Although college students may feel too young for these concerns, it never hurts to start building stress-reducing habits.

The American Institute of Stress acknowledges that “just as stress is different for each of us, there is no stress reduction strategy that is a panacea.” Nevertheless, a number of stress management tips are effective for many people.

Exercise

The Ohio State University Medical Center recommends recreational activity “as a means of reducing the physical symptoms associated with minor stresses.” Scale Tostrud's climbing wall, enjoy a run in the brisk fall air or at least toss a misguided Frisbee to a friend. While it may be difficult to break away from that nagging chemistry problem or beckoning practice room, you'll be glad you did.

Eat right

Even in the culinary paradise that is Stav Hall, it can be difficult to make healthy choices, especially when you find yourself waiting for friends at the dessert counter. Ada P. Kahn, Ph.D. and author of “Stress A-Z: A Sourcebook for Facing Everyday Challenges,” claims, “A healthy diet with three meals a day is a basic for wellness and can also help prevent and relieve stress. Well-balanced meals provide a slow release of necessary nutrients throughout the day.” On those nights that extend into the wee hours, a cola-binge is always tempting.

But beware: Kahn warns too much caffeine can cause additional anxiety for some people.

Go to bed

Establishing sound sleep patterns promotes overall health and better productivity during the day. Washington University's Sleep Medicine Center offers a number of tips for a good night's sleep: keep a routine wake-up time, establish pre-sleep habits like light reading, avoid daytime naps longer than an hour and plan an earlier time to worry or reflect on the day's events.

For college students in particular, following these recommendations is difficult – after all, who can resist a mid-afternoon cat nap? But keep in mind the importance of rest and avoid the temptation to place it at the end of your to-do list.

Embrace friends

According to Kahn, “Many people find relief from stress in talking with their support groups. When they are able to talk about their issues, problems and concerns and get feedback from trusted, objective family and friends, people get an enlightened perspective that often helps them to lighten their stress load.”

When talking with friends, don't forget to play the role of the confidant: Avoid being the person who is so consumed in his or her problems that the needs of others are ignored.

Of course, one way to avoid these tips is by limiting stress in the first place. For many, including this writer, procrastination is a continual downfall: stress could be reduced by simply turning off “"The Office,"” closing the pages of “People” and starting that history paper a little earlier. By making a few small changes to the ways you move, eat, sleep and talk, you may be on your way to a less stressful life.





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