Students are beginning to feel the pressure as finals week quickly approaches. Stress can take a toll on students’ health, mentally and physically, but there are many ways to handle stress to help prevent it from taking over.
Michael Olpin, Weber State University professor and director of health promotions, said he sometimes likes to make a list of things to do, and always at the top of his list is aerobic exercise.
“Stress is a response designed so that you run from something,” he said. “That’s its only purpose, to keep you safe when you’re in danger. When you exercise, you are actually following through with that message and doing what you have been telling yourself to do anyway. Whenever you get stressed, you’re telling yourself to go running, so the best thing to do is go running.”
Stress can lower a person’s immune system, which can eventually cause the body to get sick. There are many ways for students to avoid becoming sick when the pressure of finals begins to rise.
“Being physically active strengthens your immune system; you’re less likely to get sick,” said Kimber Harding, Student Wellness Center coordinator. “Sleep, exercise and a well-balanced diet is really key when preventing illness. Hand washing this time of year is a really big deal, and disinfecting things. Flu shot season is usually at the beginning of fall to protect you through spring — not that you can’t get it other times of the year.”
Students can also be at an increased risk of having heart attacks, strokes or even diabetes, which can be caused by lack of sleep, no exercise and poor diet.
“What I have noticed with college students is that a lot of the healthy things they were doing kind of drop off when they are in college,” said London Draper Lowe, nursing professor. “So they may have been getting plenty of sleep, but now they are up doing their homework all night, so they aren’t getting the sleep they need.”
WSU students have many options on campus to help relieve stress. The Stress Relief Center is a place where students can go to relax and use massaging chairs, inversion tables and many other services. Located on the second floor of the Swenson Gym in Room 60, the center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“We live in a pretty stressful world, and stress management skills are not where they ought to be in order to deal with some of the issues people are being confronted with, as far as the economy, jobs and life in general,” said Sherri Jensen, adviser for health promotion and human performance. “Students can exercise, pay attention to what they eat and eat more regularly. Oftentimes students skip meals and then eat more later because their body thinks they are starving.”
Along with healthy eating and exercise, it is recommended that students balance school, family and friends. When students lack involvement with their friends and family, they have no one to vent to, which can cause more stress. If students only focus on school, they may not be taking time for fun.
Olpin said students should “stay in the moment,” working to keep their minds where they are instead of worrying about future stressors.
“Practice yoga, meditate — just do those things that we know are really, really good for stress reduction,” he said. Students shouldn’t “saturate their lives with school. Keep a balance of time with friends, time with family.”