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Health Matters: Stress can be good

Feel like there are too many things to do? Lacking sleep from all the exams and homework? Not maintaining healthy eating habits? Drinking too much caffeine? Well you are not the only one. Everyone experience stress once in a while. However, there are many ways to manage, relieve and reduce stress.

Often, stress is labeled as a bad thing, but in moderation, it can actually be very beneficial. Photo from Flickr.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stress is a feeling of frustration, anger, or even nervousness created from any event. Stress is a normal feeling that affects everyone in different ways.

There is good stress and bad stress according to NIH, and good stress is that little dose of motivation that gets you going when there’s pressure to get things done.

“Stress is my life. It is my motivation and it helps me get my work done because I work better under pressure,” said Christi Fillhart, a junior at Mills College.

According to research presented in Medicine Net, a network of U.S. Board Certified Physicians and Health Professionals working together to provide the public medical information, symptoms of stress vary among different individuals. Common symptoms are sleep problems, muscle tension and aches, headaches, tiredness, change in eating habits, nervousness, anxiety, mood change and even depression.

PubMed Health, a service provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, said that stress is caused when individuals need to adapt to changes such as a new job, school, moving into a new house and even having a child. Pressures that are long lasting and intense can cause people to feel overwhelmed.

“Stress is caused due to having too many responsiblilities and the inability to prioritize,” said Sarah Lombardo, a senior and the treasurer of the Mills College Community Health Resource Center.

According to PubMed Health, there are various ways to manage stress before it becomes a trigger to make people vulnerable to colds and serious conditions such as heart disease.

Medicine Net suggests a strategies to cope with stress that incledes eating stress-reducing foods such as complex carbohydrates which help to stabilize blood sugar levels, oranges which help to reduce stress hormones and contain vitamin C, spinach which contains magnesium that reduces headaches and tiredness, fatty fish which contains omega-3 fatty acids that protect against depression and heart disease, avocados which contains potassium that reduce high blood pressure, and almonds which contains vitamin E that strengthen the immune system. All in all, nutritious diet can reduce the impact of stress upon a person.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) annual “Stress In America 2010” reports that stress seems to be rising over the past years. Individuals were asked to participate contributing their own favorite methods to relieve stress. The top three ways are listening to music (49%), exercising or walking (48%), and spending time with family or friends (46%).

Dorian Newton, Director of Counseling & Psychological Services at Mills College, suggests to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, reduce intake of caffeine, and to practice relaxation technique such as yoga, deep breathing or meditation. Newton also said that writing in a journal or talking to a friend to express emotions is a great tool for relieving stress as well.

This time of the year is very stressful for students with projects and papers due and finals coming up. So find a place on campus where you feel at peace to relieve or reduce stress. Newton also suggests you can check out the Botanic Garden, Lake Aliso, the Chapel or take the Healing Plant Tour.

Although stress can be hard to handle, according to Newton, it’s existence is inevitable. However,  if you make self care a priority, stress will be less likely to build, making it more manageable to live with.

Health Matters is a column written by the second-year nursing students participating in the Nursing Leadership Class.