Stressed Out? CAPS can help!

stressed student

                When you think of the word stress what comes to mind? Does the word itself create stress? Do you have metaphorical mountains of homework to conquer, literal mountains of laundry to fold, theoretical mountains of classes left to complete? Did reading that just stress you out a little bit? Well, I hope your answer to at least one of those questions was yes, because I’m about to give you several spectacular resources that can help remind you how to stay on top of your stressors and instead of becoming overwhelmed, use that little anxious feeling to your advantage!

Throughout my undergraduate student years here at BYU I was able to utilize resources from the CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) Office—especially as I became more aware of my stress tolerances, and you can too! Stress is a normal and natural part of mortality that often manifests in times of growth, and as I’ve personally applied what I’ve learned from stress management resources (like these from CAPS), stress has become a positive part of my life, and it can for you also!

There is quite a variety of literature and research available pertaining to stress management because every individual has varied stress and relaxation needs. For the purposes of having a quick resource for your stress management needs, here are Heather’s 3 Very Simple Steps for Managing Stress (inspired by this handout):       

1.   Recognize

2.   Relax

3.   Repeat

As we go through these steps, I will include additional hyperlinks for online resources available from our CAPS Office.

Recognize

The Stress Management section from STDEV 100 explains the importance of recognizing your stress level in this anecdote:

“Dr. Selye suggests that some people have a “race horse” life-style and seem to thrive on intense activity, while at the other extreme, some people prefer a “turtle” life-style and function best when their activity level is reduced. Trying to adopt a “race horse” life-style when we really prefer a “turtle” pace of life, or vice-a-versa can be stressful. For example, a medical doctor told a “race horse” lady, who had just been diagnosed as having high blood pressure, to go home and take it easy. He told her to do more things while sitting down such as reading and resting. She tried this program for a week or two before going back to the doctor and telling him that she was going crazy. The change from the “race horse” to the “turtle” life-style was extremely stressful for her and actually increased her blood pressure. After talking with the doctor, she adopted a moderate “race horse” level and consequently reduced her blood pressure as well as her stressful feelings.”

While you become mindful of your preferred life-style pace, it is important to avoid comparing yourself to those who prefer a different pace, and remember that your tolerance to stress will fluctuate during different seasons of your life.

                One of the largest obstacles in stress management is making the time to recognize stress within yourself when you have several responsibilities. However, did you know that you can check in with yourself as little as two minutes? I like to take inventory from time to time, and am unashamed to say that I have been reminded time and time again that I am a jaw-clencher! However, taking a minute with the breathing exercises has helped me significantly! Another resource the CAPS office has is a worksheet, which is fabulous to use when your stress seems to be increasing, you are in a state of change, or you just want to take a little more time to reflect—it is very useful while planning! I try to make time every morning to engage in meditation and get in a good frame of mind to be able to acknowledge my stress throughout the day.

 

Relax

                The CAPS Office offers Stress Management and Biofeedback Services online to help you Relax Your Mind and Body! After you recognize elevated stress levels, you need to activate the relaxation response. There are a myriad of relaxation techniques to use from simple stretches to relieve muscle tension to paced breathing and relaxation recordings! Just as you need to take time to recognize your stress, you need to be intentional about self-care, frequently allocating time to relax your mind, body and spirit—this ARE more than the few hours allocated to sleeping each night! Sleeping is very important though, and here are some tips for overcoming insomnia.

                In addition to relaxation techniques, an important part of stress management is changing thoughts and perceptions! The CAPS website has handouts to help you be more mindful of your self-talk, self-perception, anxieties and how those patterns of thought can contribute to your stress response. As you change your thoughts and perceptions you will be able to reduce your stress levels. Also, I personally believe that taking time to serve others help each of us, at an individual level, to better put our own problems and responsibilities into perspective. I enjoy taking time out every week to participate in a few hours of service in my community, in large part because simply being in the place I serve helps to decrease my stress levels. I would encourage you to evaluate the service you give (from simple every-day family service to formal volunteer work) and decide how it can help you activate a relaxation response.

                Now, if you’ve taken the time to check out these resources you may be thinking to yourself: “What if I’m more of the “race horse” mentioned before? All of these seem to be pretty passive!” Well, I’m glad you did! And yes, in a traditional sense stress relief and relaxation are largely introspective, quiet, calm, and passive. Here is the good news though, if you’ll notice on this handout, exercise is another one of the things you can do to activate the relaxation response! The health benefits of yoga and tai chi are notable around the world and great for humans (and even goats if you want to try “go-ga”!) of all ages and physical ability. Furthermore, there are several videos available on YouTube to follow along with from the comfort of your own home. I have recently discovered racquetball to be a great relaxation activity for me, and intentionally schedule time to play at least twice a week so that even if I get busy, I make sure I get my relaxation response! I would encourage the more active members of the audience to be intentional about your physical activity and recognize the relaxation response it will activate.

 

Repeat

                Just as you put time and energy into your relationships with those around you, please remember how important putting similar effort into your relationship with yourself is. Stress management is a commitment to cherishing your goodness, having holistic health, and growing better and better each day. Remember is a very brief overview of resources available to help you through your BGS journey, please make sure your school work and learning is adding to your life, and make the adjustments your need to find balance!

 

More CAPS Resources:

Stress Management Strategies

Apps and Websites to Help with Stress

Paced Breathing Recordings

Relaxation Recordings – There are so many good recordings here!

The Complete List of Stress Buster Handouts:

                Stress and the Mind/Body Connection

*** Test Anxiety Worksheet

*** Insomnia Busters

*** Learned Optimism (which is also a book!)

                Changing Thoughts and Perceptions

                Perfectionism

Dealing with Anxiety

How to Break the Worry Habit Before It Breaks You

Time Management

Coping Strategies in Dealing with Stress

Headache Treatment & Prevention

Stress Busters for College Students

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