What is Stress?

March 1, 2017 102 7 No Comments


What is stress?

We hear the word stress every day. People use it to describe the effects of long, hard days or difficult life experiences. However, the actual definition of stress is not well-known. According to the Stress Management Society, stress is your body’s response to situations. If you are stressed out, your body will switch into the flight or fight response, which is what evolution has created for humans to survive when under attack. During the flight or fight response, various hormones are released, blood flow changes in the body, and you experience a flood of energy. This is beneficial if you are under attack. However, this response often occurs in unnecessary situations. For example, the flight or fight response is not going to be very beneficial when you need to study for a difficult exam. In this situation, the fight or flight response would be even more detrimental because brain functioning is temporarily reduced. The reasoning behind this is that if you are under attack, you are going to need your muscles rather than your brain; therefore, blood rushes to your muscles instead of the brain. If this occurs, studying for a test or performing well on exam day would be much more challenging.

Myth: All Stress is Bad

Although stress can be detrimental, it also is extremely helpful and somewhat necessary for ideal academic performance. There are two types of stress: distress and eustress. Distress can cause you to be unable to finish tasks at school and work. It can be very debilitating, especially if it is chronic. Alternately, eustress is a milder form of stress that allows you to accomplish your goals and keeps you motivated. Eustress allows you to better accomplish your tasks because it improves cognitive functioning. Without eustress, even the most intelligent students would not be successful. Eustress gives you the burst of energy you need to finish that term paper or meet that project deadline!

The Effects of Stress on the Body

Now that you know about the different types of stress and their functions, it is important to understand the damaging effects that distress can have on the body. Chronic stress can greatly impair your heart’s health because it will constantly be overworked. If the heart is overworked, you will be more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, and general problems with the heart’s functioning. The issues can lead to possible strokes and heart attacks. Additionally, chronic stress can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. And, chronic stress can lead to a less effective immune system. This means that you will be more susceptible to colds, the flu, more serious diseases, and the body will be less effective when fighting infections.

Stress During Test Season

For students, there are particular times of the year where stress levels shoot through the roof: test seasons. If students are feeling overwhelmed, it becomes very difficult to perform well on exams. To understand how to conquer stress during test season, it is important to be aware of the reasons why it starts. If you have low motivation, it will be more difficult for you to accomplish tasks on time. Therefore, you might fall behind and in turn become more stressed. In addition, students who do not take time to prepare for their courses and exams have been proven to have higher levels of stress. Another reason why a student could feel overwhelmed during test season is because they are focused on living up to others’ expectations. This could be pressure from parents or even their peers. If students are constantly comparing themselves to their classmates, they will be focused on doing better than them instead of working toward their own goals.
Now that you understand a few reasons why stress can begin during test season, here are 10 ways to conquer stress:

1. Turn off your cell phone
Social media and text messaging are huge distractors when it comes to studying. It is very difficult to do well on an exam if while studying you are mostly checking your news feed. If you turn off your cell phone, a large distraction will be eliminated, and you will be better able to focus on your test material.
2. Use a focusing app
There are many apps that you can download on your cell phone to help you study better. These apps can set timers for you to help focus for a set amount of time. This is a great tool for studying because you know exactly how long you have to focus before you get a break.
3. Sleep well
Students are recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. The actual amount varies for each individual, but it should be in this general range. If you get the appropriate amount of sleep every night, your brain will function better in the morning. This is true because while you sleep, your brain consolidates memories. If your brain does not have enough time to do this crucial step, you won’t be able to perform as well on test day.
4. Listen to classical music
Classical music is a great way to create a calm environment when studying. It helps you relax even if you aren’t studying. And, researchers have shown that listening to classical music can make you perform better on exams.
5. Plan ahead and manage your time
Planning ahead is a great way to prevent stress during test season. Designating time to devote to studying and putting other time toward relaxing or going out with friends is a useful way to prevent stress. Using an academic planner is a great way to effectively manage your time. 
6. Take breaks
According to researchers at MIT, it is most effective to study for 50 minute intervals with 10 minute breaks in between. This method will allow you to comprehend information without becoming overwhelmed and stressed out.
7. Eat well
Eating a well balanced diet with lots of nutrients will help give you the energy you need to perform well during test season. If your body is energized, you will be better able to focus, which will in turn decrease your stress! Plan ahead by meal prepping for the week so you do not become overwhelmed when you are busy during the week.
8. Exercise
Exercising is a great way to relieve stress because your brain produces more endorphins, which makes you feel better. Exercising a few times a week can greatly reduce stress during test season.
9. Study with a group
Studying with your peers is a great way to manage stress during test season. It allows you to gain new perspectives on the material, and discussing test material is an effective way to better recall information.
10. Do deep breathing
Deep breathing has been proven to reduce stress. It is a very easy and quick method of managing stress during test season. A great way to implement this strategy is to take a few deep breaths right before studying or prior to the start of an exam.

Stress is a part of every student’s life, but it is manageable when implementing the right strategies. It is not an overnight process, but remember that stress can be your friend and not your enemy!

If you would like more information on how to overcome stress view one of our videos here

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