Contributed by Lisa Salazar, M.P.H, A.C.E.-C.P.T., & Brooke Vanevenhoven, R.N., M.S.N., A.P.N.P.
Introduction by Tyler Achilles
I’ve been fortunate enough to never feel that type of stress, but I can imagine it could be pretty debilitating and frustrating in everyday life. What would be even more frustrating is if I sought help from a therapist and was trying to do something to manage my stress, but it still didn’t get better. This is one for some of our experts! Check out below what they had to say to this stressed-out student below. For more Q&A, check out the Overheard On Campus series or the Advice section of MyStudentBody.
Lisa Salazar, director of the Wellness Center at Idaho State University, says …
While I am all for seeing a therapist to help with potential anxiety or underlying issues that lead to stress, it’s possible that some of the side effects can be better managed with even light-to-moderate exercise. This doesn’t mean you should jump right out and sign up for a sweat-inducing exercise class; it can simply mean making time for a 20 or 30-minute walk at a comfortable pace. Sound too easy to be true? Research shows that walking offers measurable benefits with regard to alleviating some of the painful effects of stress from the body. Walking has a calming effect on the nervous system, releases tension, and can trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins are produced by the body as natural painkillers and allow the body to relax. Walking is free, is substantiated by research, and has other healthful benefits, so give it a try and see if you find some much-needed relief.
Brooke Vanevenhoven, a nurse practitioner, says …
Meeting with your therapist is one of the most important ways to begin to manage your stress, but there are many other things you can do. Start by examining your day-to-day self-care behaviors. Are you getting enough sleep, eating properly, and getting exercise? Many people choose to cope with stress by overeating, smoking, or drinking alcohol. While the temptation of these activities is great, they’re all self-destructive and will only lead to more problems if they are used as a method to cope with stress.
I cannot emphasize exercise enough. A hard cardio workout will release endorphins, your body’s own way to self-medicate stress and pain. It will also tire your body and mind, allowing you to rest more easily and recuperate. Yoga would help to center and focus your mind, taking it off the cause of your stress. The effects of consistent yoga practice can be long-lasting.
Have you been able to identify the cause of your stress? If you can pinpoint it, you can reduce its impact on your life. Is it mid-term exams? Give yourself plenty of time to study and prepare. Is it relationship issues? Talk to your partner and sort out what’s going on between you. When you can’t identify the source, it’s important to continue sorting through your thoughts and emotions with your therapist.
Finally, the stomach pains are most likely related to the stress. People can experience all sorts of physical manifestations of anxiety and stress including headaches, stomach aches, chronic pain, and fatigue. If these symptoms persist, consider talking to your medical provider to rule out a more serious physical illness. Your provider may also recommend medication for anxiety that may be the root cause of the stress that you’re experiencing.
As you work your way through your stress, be sure to spend some time with close friends, let loose and laugh, and keep in perspective the things that you have to be thankful for.
Sounds like you should hit the treadmill or go for a nice, leisurely walk. Do you have any tips to add? Tell us in the comments.