Mental Health Awareness Week, Wednesday, It’s not unusual to be stressed by anything

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Written by Oliver Galgut

As the title suggests, everyone gets stressed some times.  Whether it be due to romantic relationships or exam results; a chronic condition or a one off event, you will feel stressed at some point in your life and I would wager at University as well.

We all get stressed sometimes.

  The feeling of stress is the body’s natural fight-or-flight response, that when faced with tangible danger is very useful. However in more protracted situations like, for example, living away from home it can be detrimental to your health as the body cannot remain in “fight-or-flight mode” for very long.

Me? Stressed? Never!

That said, it can be surprisingly hard to recognise stress, so I am going to introduce you to some common symptoms before I explore some de-stressing techniques.

Cognitive Symptoms Emotional Symptoms
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Symptoms Behavioural Symptoms
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

Please, please, please be aware that many, if not all, of these symptoms can be caused by other psychological or medical conditions and that if you have these symptoms very regularly see a doctor.  A handy site with more information (and where I acquired the list of symptoms) is here

So what can I do?

Well, there numerous things you can do, however I am just going to focus on two: Mindfulness Meditation and Progressive Muscular Relaxation.  Mindfulness Meditation is a technique that is based on Buddhist meditations and focuses on learning to accept and flow with your thoughts, rather than get caught up in them.  This usually takes the form of actively concentrating your entire awareness onto a certain physical sensation and holding there for a fixed amount of time.  This will allow you to ground yourself in the here and now to rectify problems rather than getting caught up in worries that spiral through your head.

The other technique is Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR).  PMR is a two step process, the first step being deliberately and consciously tensing your muscles and the second step being the relaxation of those same muscles.  As weird as this sounds, it does work and can be used as a nightly exercise to help you sleep, as well as a way of relaxing you in the face of a stressful situation.  As you become more skilled in using this technique it becomes possible for you to consciously relax your muscles without having to tense them initially.

If you feel that you could use a bit of relaxation with either of these techniques, then there are many resources you can use to help.  There are many apps you can download for free or buy which are either generic “relaxation” apps or ones that are focused on the techniques we have already looked at.  I can also personally recommend an app called “buddhify” for both Apple and Android.  This app allows you to meditate on the go, a great skill if you find it hard to find time to meditate daily.  There are also great sources online for both mindfulness meditation and progressive muscular relaxation.  Two videos that I quite like are these from font of all things good: YouTube.

 

The first video is aimed to help you meditate and the other is a talk through progressive muscular relaxation.  There are also meditation societies on campus you can to for a regular practice of your meditation.  Also, click here for a link to an online resource for progressive muscular relaxation.

Don’t forget to check out the Mental Health Awareness Week activities going on around campus.

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I come from South West London and am studying English at Southampton. I am interested in journalism and considering it as a career after my degree. I have interests in Sports and Music and have written for a sports magazine called Sportsister before. I am keen to get involved in as much as possible whilst at Uni and writing about my experiences could be a very rewarding thing. :)

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