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Stress.

What, exactly, is it?

According to Wikipedia, "STRESS is a biological term which refers to the consequences of the failure of a human or animal body to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats to the organism, whether actual or imagined.

"It includes a state of alarm and adrenaline production, short-term resistance as a coping mechanism, and exhaustion. It refers to the inability of a human or animal body to respond. Common stress symptoms include irritability, muscular tension, inability to concentrate and a variety of physical reactions, such as headaches and accelerated heart rate."

Given this definition, it is not surprising that college students, dealing with lots of new situations and experiences, and often on their own for the first time, often complain of excess stress.

The good news is, almost anyone can learn to manage stress and maintain health. Learning to recognize the physical and psychological warning signs of stress and then responding correctly are keys.

Warning Signs of Stress

Taking longer to fall asleep
Awakening during the night
Waking up tired and not well-rested
Insomnia
Compulsive overeating
Inability to eat
Desire to eat abundant carbohydrates
Headaches
Increased irritability
feeling short-tempered or intolerant of others
Recurring colds and minor illness
Frequent muscle aches or tightness, particularly in neck and shoulders
inability to organize time and materials
Forgetfulness
Increased difficulty in task completion
Feeling a persistent sense of time pressure
Increased frustration
Increased anger
Increased sadness

If several items on this list seems describe you or someone you know, it's time to make some changes or seek some assistance.

Stress Management

Consider these ideas to bring balance back into your life and manage the stress that inevitably accompanies a busy student lifestyle:

Get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise every day. Ride your bike, play a team sport, go for a walk, do yoga...whatever you like. Just do it. Every day.

Create a road map for your life and organize your time. First, set long and short term goals, and write them down. Second, itemize and write down the steps required to attain each goal. Third, in a calendar or planner that you find convenient, write down your class schedule, work commitments and social engagements. Then block out time in your calendar for household chores and personal responsibilities, such as grocery shopping, laundry and bill paying. Finally, fill in any additional actions or deadlines from your itemized goals list.

Spend at least 15 minutes every day in quiet reflection. This can take many forms: Prayer, meditation, controlled breathing, listening to music and writing in a journal are a few examples. Do what most effectively quiets body, mind and spirit.

Maintain relationships with loving and supportive people who have similar goals and interests, as well as with family and friends. Socialize. Have fun. And include these people in your life when challenges arise or frustrations emerge. Sometimes talking about a problem or sharing a burden is all it takes to reduce its weight.

Maintain a sense of humor and a positive attitude. These two character traits will take you further than nearly anything else you develop.

Seek the help of a guidance counselor or another trusted person if you feel too overwhelmed.

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