Students endure stress everyday from work, relationships, grades, and finances just to name a few. The pressures to perform can affect you either to bring you down or energize you to achieve. Sometimes the stress of student life becomes too much. Students at MWSU have help when they need it through the counseling and testing office located in Eder Hall 203.
MWSU veteran counselor, Steve Potter has been assisting students for more than twenty years and gave advice Friday Jan. 28 about managing stress in a presentation at Eder Hall. The goal was to help students with the stress they encounter every day
“We do a great deal of class-schedule type counseling or career counseling but our bread and butter is working with students with personal concerns and issues,” Potter said. There are some differences in concerns from freshmen to non-traditional students but the issues are surprisingly similar. “If you are going to lump them into categories there are three, depression, anxiety and stress.”
Potter also pointed out that stress can come from good things such as weddings, buying a car or having a baby. In some cases these otherwise positive events can lead to negative reactions to stress. The key to stress management he said is to react in good productive ways.
“I would like to redo this event at a better time so more students could attend,” event organizer and Non-Trad Program Assistant, Shannon Ebling said. “The event was so full of information that students really need. I found many ideas for overcoming stress in my own life.”
Potter discussed the “ABCD’s” of the mental chain of events in a stress response. The letter “A” is the “activating” event or stressor. The “B” represents what one “believes” about the event whether it is rational or irrational. Next is the “C” or “consequence” that people feel about an event as a result of their perception. Then the “D” is representative of “disputing” an irrational belief to bring out a more positive consequence. An irrational belief, explored in the hand out material, may be that students feel “just can’t stand it” when actually they can.
Jenifer Gawatz attended the event and said, “I will use the ideas learned at this event to overcome some of the stress that I have. I’m going to get a hobby. I need the distraction because I’m dealing with an ex-relationship.” Gawatz also said she would go again if the event is offered.
Many students, according to the literature, fall into the “fairy tale” response category believing that things should be different. Students in this category think that things should always be ideal or the way they want them to be. This type of belief system is not founded in reality and increases stress. Another category labeled as the “Monster” is a belief that there is danger where no actual danger exists. This is sometimes the stress students feel when experiencing test anxiety.
Students can have the “I’m no good” or “others are no good,” complex. These are overgeneralizations according to Potters literature and they exaggerate normal failures or imperfections. Another stress factory is the “Doomsday” category which tends to make a situation seem more tragic than it is. These individuals make mountains out of mole hills and find stress at every encounter.
The goal of the presentation was to assist students in identifying the stressors in their lives and plan ways to react to those stressors in a positive realistic way. Potter believes that students need to practice relaxation and do it the right way. He has developed a way of identifying stress by measuring hand temperature. Using this detection method he can not only measure stress but also measure how well his clients are relaxing. Potters theory is that improved relaxing methods with practice can lead to stress relief.
Tips For Stress Relief
The following is a summary of ideas conveyed by MWSU Counselor Steve Potter during his recent presentation about stress management.
The first tip for relieving stress is to understanding one’s self. To do this, listen to the body. Students sometimes don’t know when to quit. People can also use feedback from others. Be aware though, sometimes friends won’t tell friends what is wrong with the way they are acting when asked. People have an obligation to be honest with themselves. Students need to set limits by discovering what they can control in their life and what they cannot. Also, they need to watch and learn how they react to situations. It’s best to actually keep notes of how you react and how you feel when situations arise. Then analyze those reactions to see if they are positive or negative.
Next it is necessary to develop healthy attitudes. Positive thinking is not normal for some without practice. This is where counseling can help. It is important for people to accept what they cannot change and realize that they’re human and therefore are not perfect. Everyone needs to learn to love their self as they are without expectations. Many forms of stress come from past experiences or worry about future events. These are negative actions and keep us from living in the present. It is important to recognize the things that have been accomplished and successes fulfilled. Those events need to be celebrated. Students need to realize that leisure time is important and beneficial if used wisely. Everyone needs to understand that they and their time are limited and they must learn to say no. Nobody can do everything.
Controlling emotions is difficult for some. People need to ask themselves, how do I feel? Then share those feelings with someone who will listen. This is often called venting. When someone is venting it is not necessary to respond just to listen as the one venting gets it out of their system. If there is no person to vent upon then students can often feel better after writing down the event and how it made them feel. This is done by writing letters that never get sent or keeping a journal. The main idea is to not keep those feelings bottled up. Find a way to express them.
People who want their way all of the time need to think about others and their point of view. It helps to give in once in a while. Not every issue is a “hill to die on.” It is normal to look for those responsible and attach blame to people for situations but this is negative behavior. People need to learn to share their feelings honestly. Always be willing to find new friends. Learn to listen to others and not give advice until they ask. People need to learn to risk love when dealing with close relationships.
It is important to keep a regular sleep schedule, exercise regularly and eat well-balanced meals. Caffeine and nicotine increase stress. It may feel better to light up but maybe the time to get away from a situation and think is the real therapy. One of the best tips is just learning to relax. Counselors can help you learn breathing techniques and other activities so a little relaxation can go further. Being overweight is an automatic stressor. It is best to keep weight at a moderate level.
Then there is the age old idea of living one day at a time to enhance healthy living. This gets back to living in the present and not worrying about regrets from the past or possible events from the future. It is important to have alone time along with socializing. Try to be more self reliant so others have less of a chance to let you down. Stress really is relieved by having a hobby. It’s a way to escape the stressful situations for a while. Successful stress managers guard their private alone time and let others know that it is valuable to them. It is important to take vacations and breaks to relieve stress. Keeping a variety of activities is important to maintain balance. Keep in mind that it is best to plan changes and don’t make too many at once. It is best to avoid impulsive changes these cause stress for everyone involved. Overall remember to slow down and relax.
It is rewarding to really enjoy the career successes as they come. People should never fear failure but accept it as a normal part of living. Nothing enhances your career and life like improving your skills. The end result is more confidence and less stress.
People must to realize that they need to handle the situations they face. Other people can help but they make the necessary changes in their own lives. People are stronger than they think. They need to learn to be responsible for the choices they have made and learn from the situations they cause. They can also learn from the good outcomes of making good decisions and doing the right thing.
No one can do everything or make everyone happy. Students need to realize their limits and set realistic expectations for themselves. Setting unattainable goals only leads to stress and frustration. People need to learn that it is ok to say no.
Students should not expect perfection of themselves or others. Making mistakes is normal and if mistakes are expected they can be accepted more readily. People can get along better if they keep an open mind and are tolerant of each other. It doesn’t mean that you have to give up your values to allow someone else to have theirs. It is easier to get along when people replace the need to be right with the need to be kind.
People need to have a healthy since of humor. Students need to take what they do more seriously and themselves less seriously. Students are more productive, happier, and successful when they have a good since of humor.
Stop your “Stinking Thinking”
Students can enhance their environment by just thinking of things in a more positive way. Many need help with this process and help is available at the MWSU Testing and Counseling office. It is better for all when people stop finding the negative in every situation and focusing on only the bad result of an unfortunate situation. Finding something good is harder but much more productive.
Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
Students can benefit by learning to take a moment and count their blessings. People need to be more thankful for the good things that happen to them and the good relationships that they have with others. When people keep these ideas in focus it is hard for stress to sneak back into their lives. It is helpful to focus on ways of helping others.
Give yourself a “Helper’s High”
Nothing can make someone feel as good as when they come through for someone else. When they do that thing that means everything to another human being, it gives them strength to overcome their own stress. People who have never experienced this “High” need to volunteer or do something so they can get this experience. It could change their life.
Take Good Care of Your Body
As much as people need to take this advice it is more important now than ever. Medication for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and stress are the top three prescriptions written today. Most doctors agree that most could get off of their medication if they just learned to diet and exercise properly. Cigarettes, caffeine, sugar, alcohol and illicit drugs are stress enhancers. Rest is essential for good stress management and good health.
Love Yourself and Everyone You Meet
People need to know that it is ok to love themselves. It is equally important to love others as well as they love themselves. It may sound corny or religious but without love those feelings of loneliness, despair and stress increase exponentially. Students need to learn to risk loving others.
Find the Bless in the Mess
People and situations will disappoint us. It is a given. As people focus on being more open honest and positive it should become easier to overcome the stress related to disappointment. Students can apply this to their lives by learning to expect disappointment and planning how to handle it in a healthy way that doesn’t increase stress in their lives.
Live in the Present
People are healthier when they learn to “give it up,” or “let go of it.” Holding on to something from the past only serves to enhance stress. As well, worrying about something that may never happen is equally destructive. Only when people learn to enjoy where and when they are can they loosen the bondage of stress.
People are most healthy and stress free when they feel real bonds to others. It is healthy to share life’s little moments with others even if it is funny or embarrassing it only invites others to share and increase bonds and connections that can fight feelings of loneliness and stress.