Here are healthful ways to deal with emotional stress
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Stress will always be a part of life. In fact, you wouldn’t want to get rid of all stress.
Some stress comes from positive changes, such as an internship opportunity or a promotion at work. Other stressors are not positive.
“Emotional stress in college can come from many different angles — school work, friends, romantic relationships and learning how to be independent,” said Renee L. Hagar-Smith, owner and founder of Renee Hagar Smith Wellness in Manlius. “Most of the time stress is present because we are either recalling something that has already happened or worrying about something that might happen.”
How you deal with stress can affect physical and emotional health. Of course, methods like substance use, overeating, risk taking, lashing out or avoiding others causes harm. Instead, try these healthful ways to cope with stress:
• Take a break.
Overstressing over grades can hurt you. Take a few minutes’ break every hour.
“Bringing yourself into the present moment by intentionally pausing and checking in with your breath, is a great way to keep from letting the stress overwhelm you,” Hagar-Smith said. “Ask yourself: where do you feel the stress in your body? Is it tight shoulders or chest? Taking a few moments to soften and stretch the areas of physical tension, while still breathing with conscious awareness.”
This calms the nervous system to improve focus.
Cody Bowser, senior staff clinician at Paths to Recovery Mental Health Counseling in Syracuse and Oswego alumnus, said that after acquiring a first job, no one will likely ever look at your GPA again anyway.
• Talk it out.
• Venting to a trusted friend helps.
• Seek campus resources.
Bowser said that many students do not know about these.
“Explore the college web page so you know where to go and who to contact,” he said. “Speak with your adviser as often as possible, not just for academic purposes.”
• Seek spiritual enrichment.
Whether through prayer, meditation on positive thoughts or an organized religious practice, engaging in spiritual life helps mitigate stress. A gratitude list can help you realize that many things are going right in your life.
“The biggest thing is to find what helps you as an individual,” said Ashley Williams, licensed mental health counselor with Cardinal Hope Mental Health Counseling Services, PLLC in Syracuse.
She also recommends following uplifting social media. Avoid negative, gossipy posters.
• Perform self-care.
“Taking care of yourself through sleep, movement and no or low processed food choices is a place to start,” said Jodi Mullen PhD, licensed mental health counselor and director of Integrative Counseling Services in Oswego. “Although Western medicine and culture tend to separate out mind, body, and spirit, the art of coping requires all three components.”
Plan ahead so you don’t have to cram and miss sleep. Stock up on whole food snacks, like nuts, seeds, whole grain crackers, fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water.
“Watching alcohol intake; it’s a depressant,” said Dan Reidenberg, executive director for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, which also has a Central New York chapter. “It’s part of college life but pay attention to how much you’re drinking.
• Ask for help.
Most health insurance plans cover mental health counseling. Reidenberg encourages students to speak up and ask for help.
“Too often, we hear that students are afraid if they say something about mental health, the school will send them home or their parents will be disappointed in them,” he said. “The more we can make it okay for students to say things are tough and they need some time help or advice, the better off they’ll be.”
In case of a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.