Managing Stress

The final few weeks of the semester can often be a somewhat stressful period. During times of stress or high workloads, it is especially important to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally/emotionally. We have compiled the following resource guide to assist you in remaining happy and healthy through the conclusion of this semester and beyond.






What is Stress? Stress is pressure from external circumstances that can cause internal tensions. This corresponds to our addiction to speed and our obsession with activity. Filling our lives with so much to do and so little time, we live and work in a state of chronic catch-up, never stopping to take our "psychological temperature" along the way. Not surprisingly, it has been found that much illness is related to unrelieved stress. If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you need to reduce the stress in your life and/or improve your ability to manage it.

Here are several ways to help you reduce your stress level:

Deal With the Cause
If tension comes from your relationship with a person, talk out your differences. If tension comes from an unfinished task, restructure your priorities so you can get the responsibility out of the way.

Learn To Pace Yourself
It's not humanly possible to be in high gear all the time. When you have a number of must-do tasks, deal with them one at a time, in order of their urgency, while setting aside all the rest for the time being. Take time out to reward yourself with at least a rest once you've reached a goal.

Escape For Awhile
Sometimes, when things go wrong, it helps to escape from the problem for awhile: to lose yourself in a movie, a book, a game or a brief trip from a change of scene. 

Realize Your Limits and Plan around them
Don't take on more than you can handle. Less stress is caused, in the long run, by turning away tasks than by leaving work unfinished.

Work Off Your Anger
If you feel like lashing out at someone who has provoked you, try holding off that impulse for awhile. Pitch your pent up energy into some physical activity you like, such as walking or more do-it yourself projects.

Give In Occasionally
If you get into frequent quarrels with people, feel obstinate and defiant, ask yourself "Is this really worth fighting for?" If not, give in. Competition and criticism are contagious, but so is cooperation.

Eat Sensibly and Get Plenty of Rest
When your body is run down from lack of food or sleep a lot of things look worse than they really are and your ability to cope with them is also reduced.

Don't Try To Be Perfect
Give the best of your effort and ability but don't beat up on yourself if you can't achieve the impossible. Also, give yourself a pat on the back for the things you do well.

Plan For Change
Coping with the unexpected is a great source of stress; however, you have control over many elements of your life. Whenever possible, plan to avoid too many big changes coming at the same time, and try to accept and prepare for the inevitable changes.

Have Fun
Recreation is essential for good physical and mental health. Plan to do something you enjoy as part of a set routine.

Develop A Positive and Outgoing Disposition 
If you look on the bright side of things and beyond yourself, you won't concentrate on failure. Positive emotions help fight stress while negative ones produce or intensify stress. Even smiling relieves stress.

Talk Out Your Troubles
Talk your problems over with a level-headed person you can trust. It can release pressure, make you feel better, help you see worries more objectively and figure out ways to handle the problem.

Learning stress management takes patience and commitment, but it's benefits are priceless — personally and professionally. By learning to take care of yourself while taking care of business, your work becomes more creative, effective and fulfilling.

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Eat small, frequent meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady. Going more than 4 to 5 hours without eating can lead to fatigue, low concentration, and headaches.

Keep some easy, convenient meals on hand. Avoid living entirely on snack foods, as they usually won't energize you as much as a real meal. Try healthy frozen entrees, bean soups, peanut butter or cold cut sandwiches, ready-to-eat tuna and chicken salads and other convenient foods.

Avoid sweets and sugary foods. Stock your room with healthier snacks. Too much sugar can lead to energy crashes and weight gain. Limit sugary drinks (soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, etc.) to one 12-oz drink per day. Instead of candy or sodas, grab these healthier, energy-sustaining snacks:

    • Small sandwich
    • Carton of low fat yogurt
    • Fruit with 2 Tbsp peanut butter
    • 1/4 cup trail mix or nuts
    • 100-calorie pack of popcorn
    • Frozen fruit juice bars
    • Fat-free pudding
    • Protein-rich nutrition bars
    • Baby carrots with hummus
    • String cheese
    • Tuna salad on whole wheat crackers
    • Vegetable soup
    • Oatmeal made with milk

Choose meals and snacks that include protein* as well as carbohydrate.** Protein helps keep your energy levels steady. For example, snack on peanut butter and fruit instead of just juice and crackers. Top your pasta with grilled chicken strips or tofu rather than have pasta and sauce alone.

* Protein foods: beans such as pinto, refried, black, chick peas, lentils, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, peanut butter, soy protein powder, tofu, soy hot dogs/burgers and water-packed tuna.
** Carbohydrate foods: whole grain breads and cereals, pastas, rice, starchy vegetables such as corn, potato, sweet potato

Avoid overdoing caffeine. Caffeine gives you immediate energy, drop in energy later on. Caffeine in the late afternoon and evening can interfere with a good night's sleep.

Water, water, water! Include a glass of water with all your meals and take a few water breaks during the day.

Resist the temptation to eat in front of the TV, while reading etc. You'll get more satisfaction and pleasure out of your food if you can pay attention to what you're eating! You may also be able to stop at the first sign of fullness and avoid overeating.

Don't leave home without breakfast! 
If you can't eat breakfast before leaving the house, here are some healthier fast food options:

    • Egg burritos and wraps, especially those with veggies
    • Egg and bagel/English muffin sandwiches (avoid the biscuit, bacon and sausage)
    • Whole grain bagel with light cream cheese and skim milk
    • Low fat bran muffin and skim milk
    • Fruit and yogurt parfait with granola
    • Trail mix and skim milk

Don't forget fats. Fat helps food to stay in the stomach longer, giving a greater sense of satisfaction and preventing hunger soon after meals. Diets too low in fat may trigger cravings. Make sure you include healthy fats into your meals and snacks. Good sources of healthy fats include: canola, olive, peanut and safflower oils; nuts, nut butters, seeds; avocado, flax seed oil, salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Avoid saturated and trans fats.

Excerpted from ©Apple Promotions, College Nutrition Handouts I, 2000 (as accessed via



Relaxation: Relaxing Your Body and Mind

There are a number of relaxation techniques that can help you manage stress and also improve your concentration, productivity and overall well-being.


    • Find a quiet, relaxing place, where you will be alone for 10-20 minutes to do these exercises. The techniques work best if there are no distractions.
    • Practice once or twice a day.
    • Stick with the technique that works best for you. Not every technique will work for every person.
    • Keep trying. Don't worry if you don't notice a major change immediately. You may need to practice for a few weeks before you begin to feel the benefits.
    • Try one or more of the techniques described below.

This technique can help you relax the major muscle groups in your body. And, it's easy to do.

    1. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Sit in a favorite chair or lie down.
    2. Begin with your facial muscles. Frown hard for 5-10 seconds and then relax all your muscles.
    3. Work other facial muscles by scrunching your face up or knitting your eyebrows for 5-10 seconds. Release. You should feel a noticeable difference between the tense and relaxed muscles.
    4. Move on to your jaw. Then, move on to other muscle groups – shoulders, arms, chest, legs, etc. – until you've tensed and relaxed individual muscle groups throughout your whole body.

This is the process of focusing on a single word or object to clear your mind. As a result, you feel calm and refreshed.

    1. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Sit or lie in a relaxing position.
    2. Close your eyes and concentrate on a calming thought, word or object.
    3. You may find that other thoughts pop into your mind. Don't worry, this is normal. Try not to dwell on them. Just keep focusing on your image or sound.
    4. If you're having trouble, try repeating a word or sound over and over. (Some people find it helpful to play soothing music while meditating.)
    5. Gradually, you'll begin to feel more and more relaxed.

This technique uses your imagination, a great resource when it comes to reducing stress.

    1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
    2. Imagine a pleasant, peaceful scene, such as a lush forest or a sandy beach. Picture yourself in this setting.
    3. Focus on the scene for a set amount of time (any amount of time you are comfortable with), then gradually return to the present.

One of the easiest ways to relieve tension is deep breathing.

    1. Lie on your back with a pillow under your head. Bend your knees (or put a pillow under them) to relax your stomach.
    2. Put one hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage.
    3. Slowly breathe in through your nose. Your stomach should feel like it's rising.
    4. Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely and letting your stomach fall.
    5. Repeat several times until you feel calm and relaxed. Practice daily.

Once you are able to do this easily, you can practice this technique almost anywhere, at any time.

Excerpted from