Written by: Kim Daniel
Editor’s Note: The following articles are written by counseling professionals from Counseling Services in partnership with the Southern Accent.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed?
As you know, students on our campus report feeling stressed as large assignments, projects and tests approach. Stress acts like an alarm in our minds to alert us and keep us safe.
There are different types of stress that we experience. The first type is acute stress, a short-term stress that occurs in day-to-day life. For example, we experience acute stress when we have routine homework assignments.
When acute stress runs rampant and becomes ongoing, it can lead to the second type of stress: episodic acute stress. As we feel like homework is never ending, and we cannot see a future without that stress, it becomes overwhelming.
Eustress is the third type of stress. This is the positive and energizing stress that we feel when we ride a roller coaster or start a new internship. Eustress can feel like nervous excitement or anticipation. Typically, we look forward to this type of stress.
The fourth type of stress is chronic stress. This is long-term stress that feels never-ending. One significant example of this is the pandemic, which brought long-term stress without a clear end date. In fact, the American Psychological Association surveys people about stress on an annual basis. Their findings from the survey conducted in 2020 revealed that members of Gen Z are experiencing unprecedented uncertainty and elevated chronic stress.
While we experience these types of stress, it is important for us to find healthy ways to manage them. Activities such as exercise, healthy eating, breathing techniques, time in nature and prayer can help us cope with high levels of stress. It is essential that we learn how to cope with the necessary stresses in our lives, but it is equally as important that we manage our stress. One approach to managing stress is known as the 4 A’s: avoid, alter, accept and adapt.
Avoid means to understand the things we can control and learn to say no to unnecessary responsibilities. This may mean reducing work hours, limiting commitments to student leadership roles or occasionally prioritizing homework over socializing.
Alter is when we communicate our feelings to others around us and ask them to change their behaviors that cause us stress. Communicating our expectations and limitations can help when asking others to take on larger roles when working on group projects. When possible, we may even be able to delegate responsibilities to others around us.
Accept occurs when we recognize that we cannot change our current situation. When this happens, it is helpful to talk with a friend or counselor who might be able to help us work through our feelings. Practicing positive self-talk can give us resilience in these moments.
Adapt means to change our standards and reframe the situation. This can look like accepting a B instead of pulling an all-nighter to get an A. It could also be recognizing the temporary status of our stress. Will this still be a stressor two months from now?
When we experience high levels of stress, it can feel like we have no control. Through learning about the types of stress and tools to manage them, we can become better equipped to confront stressors.