Fight off stress the simple way

GVL / Marissa Dillon
Trungvuong Pham

GVL / Marissa Dillon Trungvuong Pham

Colleen Schonfield

It’s a six-letter word known for being the most inevitable feeling among any college student: stress. For some, it can act more as encouragement to meet goals, complete tasks or study harder, but for others it’s a slow defeat in the mind of a student who has pushed as hard as they can.

As Grand Valley State University students reach the half-way point of the fall semester and endure their share of midterm exams, it’s a common time for students to often feel “burned out” or overwhelmed with class loads. While it’s impossible to eliminate all negative stress, there are still ways to control reactions to it.

Know the triggers

Stress triggers are different for everyone. These may range from people, places or specific situations that cause an unbearable blend of anxiety and stress. If public speaking or class presentations spark stress, perform research and practice ahead of time to calm nerves. If there are friends or social situations that cause uneasiness, it may be time to avoid them if tense feelings arise.

Pace yourself

A large school project can be the last thing anyone wants to be working on the day before it’s due. It’s crucial to know your limits and realize what needs to be done ahead of time to avoid extreme procrastination, and potentially, the lowering of a class grade. Breaking large projects down into several small tasks can make full completion simple to achieve. Even more so is to set personal due dates if a professor hasn’t done so already. These due dates can act as checkpoints along the way to make sure everything is right on track. When it comes to studying for an exam with a large amount of material, break it down into smaller sections to prevent information overload.

Stay healthy

When stressed, usually the first thing to go is a healthy diet. Junk food cravings trick us into thinking that a bowl of ice cream or a piece of chocolate is enough to turn our bad mood into a better one. Especially when short on time or feeling too tired to cook, that bag of chips can look pretty appetizing. Before reaching for unhealthy foods, stop and ask yourself, “do I ever feel better after eating junk food?” Most likely not. Instead, grab a piece of fruit. Not only will a healthier diet promote physical well-being, but mental well-being too.

Fight off temptations

Saying no is easily the hardest thing to do when living in a college environment. You won’t lose friends if you turn down their invitation to hang out one day after class, but a lower GPA could possibly place the option of graduate school in jeopardy or could result in the loss of a dream job. Creating a list of priorities and sticking to them can help aid in the ample distraction of college temptations.

Stay motivated

Maintaining an equal balance between work, academic and social life can help to unwind those tense feelings of anxiety and stress. Knowing your limits and taking breaks throughout a day filled with heavy coursework can lead to a simple jog around campus or a quick chat with friends and family. Your body and mind will thank you for giving it a break from whatever it’s bogged down with, and overall help to re-boost that slowly declining motivational level.

Work Life Consultant for GVSU Human Resources, Susan Sloop, advises students to reach out and get support when encountering large stressors in life, as well as taking proper care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually.

“We need to make sure that the mind and the body are in complete sync with each other,” Sloop said. “So through physical activity, whether that is a walk, a run or just plain movement, we need this for our physical body. For mental health, the research is showing that being mindful and quieting our mind throughout the day greatly reduces stress, helps us to focus and increases our productivity.”

Wayne Kinzie, a staff member at the University Counseling Center suggests an alternative to the overly common student procrastination.

“Be as overly prepared for the challenge as you can possibly be,” Kinzie said.

Stress can be the ultimate determinate in achieving academic success throughout college, but it doesn’t have to be.

“You don’t have to suffer in silence and try to go it alone,” Sloop said. “There are so many resources right here at GVSU to help students, faculty and staff manage stress. Take advantage of them.”

For more information on support groups and stress management, visit