It’s happened to almost all of us. We get stressed with a project or situation in life, work or school and then *BAM* we also catch a cold or some other contagious illness that makes us even more stressed and worn out. It’s well known that stress and illness are linked, so how do we keep ourselves healthy when stress is inevitable? Here are 3 tips to keep your body in tip-top shape even when you’re stressed.
1. Check your attitude
Stress can make healthy people more vulnerable to illness by weakening the immune system, but attitude plays a critical role in lessening that reaction. I recently read an interesting article by Suzanne Segerstrom, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. She said, “The main principle is that the effect on the immune system is not a factor of what’s happening in the environment, but it’s an effect of your perception of it….To the degree that you feel threatened or overwhelmed, the immune system will be affected more.”
Focusing only on negative information and situations while ignoring positive details can cause an individual to perceive more stress and therefore suffer more severe mental and physical health issues. When you are stressed, try to look at both sides of a situation to keep your attitude toward it moderate. When I start to get too stressed, I always go back to my trusty friend Dory, from Pixar’s movie Finding Nemo, and chant the mantra, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. La, la, la, la, la. What do we do? We swim!” I know it sounds silly, but it lightens my mood and tempers the negative emotions from creeping in. If we “just keep swimming,” we are still moving forward and making progress.
2. Build a stress buffer with people
Trying to handle a large load of stress all on your own can make the situation feel hopeless. Building and maintaining connections with family, friends, religious leaders, and other confidants can truly help buffer the stress. Being able to vent to someone else about the object of your stress is good, as is being able to distract yourself and do something fun with that social support team.
Strong social support is key to lowering stress levels, especially when you are in school. Communicate with your support team when you are stressed (and when you aren’t). They often will be able to help you spread the burden around or give you a different perspective or a bit of advice to help you conquer the situation.
3. Take care of yourself
When stressed out, we often neglect ourselves in favor of worrying about the issue/stressor. It’s very important to avoid doing this. Take care of yourself and the stress will often take care of itself. Go to bed at a normal hour. Exercise regularly. Eat healthy foods. Sleep, exercise, and diet can really help overcome the stress.
Beyond that, make time to do things you enjoy, whatever that may be. I love to tinker around with technology, so when I get stressed, I make sure to take time to clean my computer out or tinker around with a game.
Above all, give yourself a break and stay away from things that make your stress worse when you’re already stressed. Limiting contact with things or people that increase that stress can help diffuse the situation.
We hope these tips help to make your schooling and life a little more enjoyable and a little less stress-filled. Do you have a favorite way to decrease stress? Share it in the comments below!