Stress affects everyone, regardless of their age, race, gender, or sexuality. There are so many different causes for stress, thus, there are multiple ways to handle it. Essentially, every individual experience an ultimatum between fighting back or letting stress deteriorate their body.

In my opinion, I would choose to fight back. Stress is more dangerous than people believe, especially to college students who have tons of other things on their mind. Stress can promote liver, mouth, and heart diseases because it weakens your immune system. It promotes aging since stress affects even a person’s cells by decreasing their speed of growth. It can make you can gain weight, because of the compulsive tendencies it causes. It plays with your emotions, due to limiting your capability to reason.

Honestly, I am tired of hearing the excuse “I’m just stressed out!” to accommodate for someone’s actions. But at the same time, I have been guilty of using the same excuse too. That’s why I have compiled a list of what to do and not to do when handling stress.

However, before I begin, you may want to take this Mindfulness Quiz to gauge your level of engagement with your own body. This will help you determine what you need to focus on in order to handle your stress in the best manner.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Handling Stress

Frustration vs. Fresh Air

Frustration arises due to the inability to change or achieve something. Often, this comes from bad test grades, relationship issues, or parental problems. Or for me, when you fracture your elbow and get cut from the softball team in high school. I remember being so frustrated with my sad situation that I started pounding my desk with my fists because I could not handle the stress. That’s probably why it took my elbow 2 weeks longer to heal than normal.

Now, it is okay to be frustrated, when you acknowledge it. Rather than dwelling on the fact that you are frustrated, take a moment to realize that you are frustrated and focus on moving on. Take a break and go outside and feel the world around you. Feel the breeze against your face, hear the sound of the leaves, and explore the landscape. If you’re not a fan of the outside, take a break by pulling up YouTube or Netflix (or those Instagram videos you cannot get away from) and feel the sensations you get as you watch. Take notice of your happiness, fear, and shock. You will notice a difference between how you feel when you focused on your frustration and when you took your break.

After you clear your mind, look again at the issue that caused you so much stress. Instead of being frustrated over the situation, conquer it. By taking a break, you will be able to realize how this situation will not take you away from the happiness you derive from the world. Take what you value and use it to help to find a solution to your issue. If I had implemented this type of awareness meditation, I would have pursued my love for film and healed my elbow a lot quicker.

Smoking vs. Breathing

Smoking cigarettes is a very unhealthy and expensive way to deal with stress. Yet, I still see a bunch of my classmates still doing it specifically for that reason. You know, there is a relaxation technique that is both free and does not cause lung cancer; yeah it’s called breathing.

However, there is a specific way to breathe in order to dilute stress. You better not stress, because it is very easy to do. First, sit up straight and feel your spine crack, cause we all know you were slouching. Second, close your eyes, but be careful not to drift asleep. Finally, focus on taking deep breaths that should last about 5 seconds each. Repeat the exercise at least 10 times.

Breathing decreases your blood pressure, reducing tension and relieving you of stress. Thus, allowing your mind and body to focus on your pressing matter, rather than having stress in your way.

Drinking vs. Acceptance

Drinking can numb stress for a very short period of time, and it can do a lot of nasty things to your body. However, a simple awareness meditation that focuses on acceptance can eliminate that stress.

Take a moment to look at your issue. What about it can you change and what about it can you not change? After answering these questions, use your reasoning capabilities that all Chapman students have to determine methods to alter what you can change in order to solve your issue. For the parts that you cannot change, focus on what you have in life and how that makes you happy.

The issue cannot be as big as the love and beauty that surrounds your life. Sometimes, you just need a moment to reassure yourself.

Eating vs. Meditation

No doubt, eating can be both healthy and unhealthy. For that reason, there is a fine balance that us humans must meet in order to be healthy. But as a poor and stressed college student, it can be hard to find a balance because eating ice cream is way more satisfying than a salad. But does your stress go away after eating it? Maybe only slightly.

Instead of overeating, focus on mindfulness meditation. It is only compromised of 2 simple steps: Present-Moment Awareness and Acceptance. In the Present-Moment Awareness stage, you fixate on what is happening now, rather than what has happened in the past or what could happen in the future. Once you are solely focusing on what is going on in the present, you move on to the Acceptance stage. At this stage, you take a look at the present with no judgment, because emotions block reasoning. In this neutral state of mind, handling a stressful situation becomes easier and clearer.

We all know eating is great and all, but it is (quite sadly) not always the answer. We must be mindful of the stressful moment at hand, and not let it control us.

Procrastination vs. Self-Reliance

Although it is healthy in some ways, procrastination is not really the best way to handle your stress. Actually, procrastination is giving up. Until you decide not to procrastinate anymore, but your project is due in 3 hours and you are stressed way more than before. Note: taking a break and procrastination are not the same thing. A break gives you time to breathe whereas procrastination can make it harder to breathe.

What you have to do is build self-reliance. First, accept the responsibilities you have at hand. A great way to do this is to make a list of the things you must do, in order of importance, and then when and how you will accomplish them. Second, recognize your emotions. If you feel too stressed or any other negative feelings, take a break. As I said before, go outside, watch Netflix, or just breathe. Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. Especially with projects, you imagine what other people are doing and how you have to be better than them to get a good grade. But ultimately, when you try your best, that is all you can do.

Self-reliance comes through acceptance and realization. Your best is the best, so why try to force yourself to do more? We are all told to go above and beyond, but not if it destroys us.

Remember to Stay Mindful

The awareness meditations and relaxation techniques I listed are all a part of a holistic approach. Holistic therapy focuses on the strengthening mind, spirit, and emotions in order to heal the body as a whole. Holistic approaches steer clear of medicine and concentrate on mental practices. In certain situations, such as handling stress, holistic approaches, such as the ones I laid out, are the best method.