Wayne State College
Student Center, Rm. 103
1111 Main St.
Wayne, NE 68787
Personal Counseling > Stress
There have been many different definitions of what stress
is, but there is no single, clear identifying source. Stress
is a part of day to day living and as college students,
you may experience stress meeting academic demands, adjusting
to a new living environment, or developing friendships.
Stress is made up of many things and is comprised of a family
of related experiences, pathways, responses, and outcomes
caused by a range of different events or circumstances.
Although we tend to think of stress as caused by external
events, events in themselves are not stressful. It is the
way in which we perceive, interpret, and react to events
that makes them stressful. People differ dramatically in
the type of events they interpret as stressful and the way
in which they respond to such stress.
A commonly accepted definition of stress is that stress
is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives
that demands exceed the personal and social resources the
individual is able to mobilize. The stress you experience
is not necessarily harmful. Mild forms of stress can act
as a motivator and energizer. However, if your stress level
is too high, medical and social problems can result.
How Can I Eliminate Stress from My Life?
Positive stress (called Eustress) adds anticipation
and excitement to life, and we all thrive under a certain
amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations,
and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment
to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to
learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Insufficient
stress acts as a depressant and may leave us feeling bored
or dejected; on the other hand, excessive stress may leave
us feeling "tied up in knots." What we need to
do is find the optimal level of stress which will individually
motivate but not overwhelm each of us.
How Can I Tell What is Optimal Stress for Me?
There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all
people. We are all individual creatures with unique requirements.
As such, what is distressing to one may be a joy to another.
And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing,
we are likely to differ in our physiological and psychological
responses to it.
The person who loves to arbitrate disputes and moves from
job site to job site would be stressed in a job which was
stable and routine, whereas the person who thrives under
stable conditions would very likely be stressed on a job
where duties were highly varied. Also, our personal stress
requirements and the amount which we can tolerate before
we become distressed changes with our ages.
It has been found that most illness is related to unrelieved
stress. If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you have
gone beyond your optimal stress level; you need to reduce
the stress in your life and/or improve your ability to manage
How Can I Manage Stress Better?
Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect
on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful
effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there
are many possibilities for its management. However, all
require work toward change: changing the source of stress
and/or changing your reaction to it. How do you proceed?
1. Become aware of your stressors and your emotional and
- Notice your distress. Don't ignore it. Don't gloss
over your problems.
- Determine what events distress you. What are you telling
yourself about meaning of these events?
- Determine how your body responds to the stress. Do
you become nervous or physically upset? If so, in what
2. Recognize what you can change.
- Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating
- Can you reduce their intensity (manage them over a
period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis)?
- Can you shorten your exposure to stress (take a break,
leave the physical premises)?
- Can you devote the time and energy necessary to making
a change (goal setting, time management techniques, and
delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here)?
3. Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to
- The stress reaction is triggered by your perception
of danger...physical danger and/or emotional danger. Are
you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and/or
taking a difficult situation and making it a disaster?
- Are you expecting to please everyone?
- Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely
critical and urgent? Do you feel you must always prevail
in every situation?
- Work at adopting more moderate views; try to see the
stress as something you can cope with rather than something
that overpowers you.
- Try to temper your excess emotions. Put the situation
in perspective. Do not labor on the negative aspects and
the "what if's."
4. Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress.
- Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and
respiration back to normal.
- Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Electronic
biofeedback can help you gain voluntary control over such
things as muscle tension, heart reate, and blood pressure.
- Medications, when prescribed by a physician, can help
in the short term in moderating your physical reactions.
However, they alone are not the answer. Learning to moderate
these reactions on your own is a preferable long-term
5. Build your physical reserves.
- Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times
a week (moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best,
such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging).
- Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
- Maintain your ideal weight.
- Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
- Mix leisure with work. Take breaks and get away when
Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule
6. Maintain your emotional reserves.
- Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships.
- Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you,
rather than goals others have for you that you do not
- Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows.
- Always be kind and gentle with yourself -- be a friend
Ron Vick, MA, LPC
Counselor / Academic Advisor
Int'l Student Advisor