Aah, stress. It’s almost worn as a badge of honour at university, and it is an inevitable part of life. In some ways it can be positive in that it can help keep you focused and on your toes. But chronic stress is not a good thing, and can lead to serious long term health problems which have been well documented. But when you’re juggling multiple deadlines, learning new things and trying to have a life outside of university, things can get on top of you. So how do you do it all without the albatross of stress permanently around your neck?
The critical element here is balance. When we spend too much time focusing on one area of our lives, we tend to not to do the other things very well, and this causes an imbalance which can lead to all sorts of physical, mental and emotional problems. It’s seems counter intuitive when you have so much of one thing to do, such as study, to focus on other things, but that’s exactly what is needed to make you more productive in those key areas. As humans we have a finite amount of energy. In order to acquire new energy we need to recharge it with the right things - the right food, the right amount of rest, the right activities and importantly, the right people. If you get these things right any stress you experience in life will not necessarily be eliminated but you will inevitably be able to manage it better. Sounds simple, right? Well, it isn’t. But once you start striving for balance it will become easier.
Start with what you feed your body. Certain foods can actually work to reduce the level of cortisol ( the hormone produced by stress) in your body and help you feel less stressed. Think berries, nuts, leafy green vegetables, fish ( such as salmon) and turkey breast. Still have your occasional naughty “comfort food” but keep it to a minimum and balance it ( that word again) with the healthy stuff.
Yes that old chestnut. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, it really is really, really important. And it’s not just about getting plenty of sleep although that certainly is critical, but do engage in activities that engender a state of restfulness. Meditate, sit still, listen to music, breathe deep, go outside and look at the clouds move across the sky for 10 minutes. Take time to just be.
With our focus in Western society on accomplishments, achievements and success it is not uncommon to forgot about play entirely and focus on work, work and more work. But play is so important. The right balance of play, rest and work can make you more productive, more focused and more attuned to your natural rhythms. And ultimately it can help you deal better with stress. So find things to do that you really love. Play a sport, play with children ( yours or borrow a friend’s or relative’s), make things or just put loud music on and dance around the lounge room!
Love is a many splendoured thing, but it’s something that must be cultivated, nourished and allowed to grow. Of greatest importance is to cultivate love for yourself. Be compassionate with yourself when you make mistakes or when things don’t go to plan. Take care of yourself through finding balance and then share that love with others – friends, family and even those you find difficult to love. Love begets love. But again strive for balance, spend more time with those souls who nourish your capacity to love rather than those that deplete it.
And that’s it. While we make it sound easy, it actually isn’t, however the more you practice it, the better you will get at it. And there are people to help you if things do get a bit too hard. CDU’s Equity Services provides free counselling to students. Or talk to Beyond Blue, Lifeline or a trusted friend.