On the second week of November in the United Kingdom, we celebrate National Stress Awareness Week. Millions of us around the country struggle with high levels of stress, which can be damaging to our health. It’s no secret that studying at university can be quite a stressful period in life, but there are ways to combat these.
Many people are not aware that stress is one of the highest public health challenges of all time. It’s fair to say that stress is not being taken as seriously as other physical health concerns. Therefore, Stress Awareness is the perfect opportunity to highlight the ways that stress can affect people and what you can do to manage your stress before it becomes a problem.
How can stress affect me?
Stress is a significant factor in mental health problems including both anxiety and depression. But this does not rule out that stress can lead to physical health problems too. Unfortunately, stress can be linked to heart disease and other issues. Therefore, it’s important we learn what steps we can take to help reduce stress for ourselves the people around us.
You might be stressed because you’re over-doing it with that coursework for that module you just cannot stand. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get it. Or it may be the complete opposite. You’re stressed because you’ve left all your coursework until the night before and you’re currently sitting in the library, three energy drinks down, scrabbling to get that word count. It works in both ways, and trust us, we’ve been there!
How can I manage my stress levels?
You’ll want to prioritise your health. Try and get a better understanding for your body. Most people are not aware of their state of mind until it’s too late and the effects of stress and poor wellbeing is has taken a bad turn. If you’re feeling low on energy, sleep for at least eight hours and wake up earlier. Eat little and often. Relax your mind and take regular breaks. Drink more water. The list is endless to reduce those stress levels.
Does exercise help with managing stress?
The short answer is yes. Regular exercise and physical activity are the key to preventing stress building and improving your quality of life, both mentally and physically. The reason for this is that it simply burns off your negative feelings. Exercise produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural pain killers. Physical activities also improve your metabolism, which also improves hormone regulation. Plus, if you get really stressed… Get a punch bag! Life’s answer to exercise and stress.
Does my sleeping pattern affect my stress levels?
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for all areas of your health. We spend approximately a third of our lives asleep and recharging the body. It’s an essential process, without which we cannot function normally. Studies show that lack of sleep can play a casual role in the development of different health problems.
Here are five ways that sleep will improve your health:
- You will become ill less frequently.
- You will be more relaxed.
- You will improve your memory and have less brain fog.
- You will be able to maintain your weight, especially with daily exercise too!
- You will lower the risk of heart disease or having a stroke.
Does meditation help with managing stress?
Meditation is a simple process which allows the mind to focus and redirect your thoughts and a fast way to reduce stress. Meditation seems to be becoming more popular by the day as more people are discovering its’ benefits. The practice can also be used to develop other beneficial habits, such as a positive mood, self-discipline, and healthy sleep patterns. Mental and physical stress can cause increased levels of the hormone cortisol. This produces the harmful effects of stress. In one 8-week study, meditation was found to have reduced the inflammation response caused by stress.
Or, if you find that the process of meditation is completely not for you, try deep breathing. High stress levels can have an impact on our breathing. Practice inhaling slowly through your nose to the count of five. Hold the breath in your belly for five to ten seconds, then count slowly to eight as you exhale. Repeat this several times and say goodbye to those stressful feelings. Check out this short video to help you with your breathing exercises.
Can a balanced diet help with stress?
Like oxygen and water, food is essential for our body’s health and wellbeing, but this doesn’t mean eating anything and everything whenever you want. A balanced diet can help with a balanced and healthy immune system and the repair of any damaged cells. There is a long-standing link between stress and nutrition, so make sure you are keeping an eye on your diet if you are feeling stressed at any time.
Research shows that certain foods such as polyunsaturated fats including omega-3 fats and vegetables may help to regulate cortisol levels. Therefore, it’s important to:
- Make sure you are having breakfast every morning; this is also a source of energy for the body.
- Maintain eating regular meals, typically three a day.
- Eat your five a day! Remember mum nailing this in your head when you were young? Well, mother knows best!
- Make sure you are eating freshly prepared meals over ready meals.
- Cut back the takeaways to a maximum of one per week.
How can I adopt a Positive Mental Attitude?
Let’s call it a PMA for short. Researchers in stress have discovered that changing certain aspects of your body can help the change with your thoughts and feelings too. Our state of mind can have a huge impact on our physical body.
The first thing to do to obtain a PMA is smile. Smiling will immediately eliminate stress. You will feel an instant difference. When you start to feel sad or down, force yourself to smile. You will notice the change in your emotions.
Secondly, stand up straight. This may sound silly, but bad posture can have an extreme negative impact on your mental state. By standing upright with your spine erected, it allows to communicate with your mind that it needs to align its state.
And finally, step back, take a deep breath and assess the situation. Remember when we spoke about deep breathing? When you experience a stressful event, the first thing you will want to do is take a step back and begin the breathing process. Think about your favourite people and who you aspire to be. How would they act and in this situation?
There you have it. Exercising, healthy diets, meditation, music, social interaction, and good sleeping patterns are just some of the numerous proven ways to help reduce stress. We sincerely hope you put some of these actions in place and develop yourself a positive mental attitude to get you through your student experience.
Whilst staying with AXO, you can surround yourself with our supportive staff and other friendly students with the help of our AXO Life program. Games, festivals, and freebies all around! Check it out here.
If you’re feeling any type of stress in some shape or form, please visit our ‘Contact us’ Page to get in touch of our team. Remember, AXO are always here to help.