What is Stress Doing to You?

Stress” by bottled_void licensed under CC BY 2.0

At the end of the fall semester, we briefly mentioned a couple of ways you could study more effectively, and provided a few helpful links for de-stressing during the final days of the semester. But, we know that more than just finals are causing our students stress. Projects, midterms, essays, homework, tuition, roommates, relationships, parking- all of these things add up. By the time finals roll around, you’re ready to explode.

Generally, when we think of physical manifestations of stress, we think of symptoms like insomnia, headaches, lowered appetite, gastrointestinal distress, and a lowered immune response. Psychological effects might also come to mind, including frequent mood changes or feelings of being overwhelmed. These are all transient symptoms of short-term acute stress, and will normally end once the source of your stress is gone.

But what happens if the stress never stops?

When your body’s stress response goes out of control due to chronic, unrelenting stimuli, bad things can happen.  Not only does chronic stress cause all of the symptoms listed above, it can also cause more insidious health issues, like:

  • More frequent asthma attacks in asthma sufferers.
  • Increased risk for hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Spikes in blood glucose levels due to cortisol and epinephrine levels, especially dangerous for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Before you start worrying that your already high stress load is just going to kill you later in life, stop and take note:  It will be okay. You may not be able to control or prevent every single stressor in your life, but you can control how you react to stressful stimuli.  The next two posts in this series will contain tips on preventing stress by studying smarter and managing your time, as well as suggestions on ways to relax when you are already stressed.

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