What is stress? Stress is defined as your physiological and emotional response to a demand that is placed on you. Without some stress, people would not get much accomplished. That burst of adrenaline that helps you finish an artistic project, an academic paper (or getting across Huntington Avenue safely sometimes) is a good example of positive stress. It becomes problematic if your body does not return to a relaxed state after the challenge has been met. This can result in physical and emotional symptoms of negative stress (headaches, muscle tension, exhaustion, panic attacks). Stress reducing activities can help assist you in disrupting a cycle of ongoing stress.
Are you getting enough sleep? Chances are likely that if you are typical of most college students, you are not. Whether you are staying up late working in your studio or socializing with friends until the early hours of the morning, you are probably depriving your body of important hours of rest. Lack of rest can compromise your immune system which makes you more vulnerable to physical illness. It can also contribute to irritability and other symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- Daily or frequent exercise can help improve sleep cycle.
- Develop a late night relaxation routine to help calm you down.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, try getting out of bed and doing something relaxing before returning to bed.
- Try to maintain regular sleep cycles to keep your body accustomed to the routine of when to expect waking and sleeping hours.
- Use a fan or air purifier if you cannot control the noise around your sleeping area.
- Take a warm shower or bath.
- Read a book, do a crossword puzzle, play sudoku, or other activities to try to relax your mind.
To avoid before sleep
- Do not exercise near to the time when you are trying to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks and nicotine in the late afternoon or evening.
- Alcohol may make you sleepy but it disrupts the natural sleep cycle and may wake you up mid-cycle.
- Avoid daytime napping unless it is for a brief nap prior to 3:00 p.m.
- If you are anxious about upcoming projects, get up and write a to-do list to try to get it off your mind.
- Heavy meals close to bedtime can delay sleep.
Mindfulness is an important skill for everyone to develop, especially for those who struggle with emotional turmoil and distrubing memories. Mindfulness can be a helpful way of managing worry and anxiety. The simple practice of mindfulness involves focusing on attending to your immediate environment. Mindfulness is observing or seeing one thing in the moment. It involves watching what is in front of you, what is under you, what is around you. Paying attention to your senses in this deliberate manner can quiet your nervous system and allow you to enter into a more relaxed state of being. Taking a deep breath and slowly inhaling and exhaling will deepen your experience.
Mindfulness can result in deepening your enjoyment of walking outside, observing a painting in a new way and smelling the air. If you find yourself drifting into a place that causes you anxiety just refocus your breathing and slowly calm your body.
Mindfulness is a technique you can talk about further with a counselor. There is also a meditation group that meets at MassArt in which mindfulness is taught.
Counseling and Psychological Services (with i-relax mp3 downloads)