With finals looming and the semester coming to a close, the campus is in a stressed-out state. College students report that the most stressful events they deal with are related to school, and it is important to recognize the ways that stress can affect our minds and bodies.
When you feel stressed out, your body enters a typical "fight or flight" mode. In this state, you experience a surge of adrenaline, which increases heart rate, heightens alertness and shuts down certain bodily processes, such as digestion. That way the body can solely concentrate on survival. Unfortunately, your body doesn't differentiate between survival stress and finals stress.
Our bodies are made to handle stress sparingly, yet we are confronted with it way more often than we are built to handle. In the short term, stress physically manifests itself through headaches, increased blood pressure, sweating, fatigue and achiness. Furthermore, students tend to develop the unhealthy habits of sleeping less, eating a poor diet and avoiding exercise. Prolonged stress can lead to serious physical complications like hypertension and heart disease.
Stress also increases the activity of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which builds up in white blood cells, decreasing immune function. Likewise, by sleeping poorly, eating poorly and not exercising when you're stressed, you further decrease your immune system's ability to fight off illness.
The impacts of stress don't stop there-it also affects you mentally. In general it may cause you to feel sluggish, defeated and unhappy. Stress can also make you feel anxious, like there's not enough time in the day to accomplish everything you need to do. Feeling as though you are unable to cope with stress can lead to depression. Likewise, prolonged anxiety may develop into an anxiety disorder.
But don't stress out about the effects of stress; there are proven ways to reduce tension and to maintain your physical and mental well-being.
While it may seem counterintuitive to take a break from studying to relax, it will actually help you to ace the exam. Test takers who are relaxed tend to focus and perform better.
Exercise is also a powerful tool for reducing physical and psychological tension. It induces a rush of endorphins, which will make you feel good and boost your confidence, overcoming feelings of depression or anxiety. Likewise, exercise improves immune function and strengthens the body.
People who are optimistic and avoid negative self-talk experience a greater feeling of self-efficacy. In other words, they tend to believe they can handle anything that comes their way, thus reducing how stressed they feel. Social support is proven to reduce feelings of stress, too, so study with a friend whenever possible.
Stress will not only affect your physical and mental health, but also how well you do on the very exams that are stressing you out. So take time to reduce your stress, not just for your health, but for your academic success as well.