Master Your Stress

As the semester winds down, many college students, including myself, face great amounts of stress as they prepare for final exams and ending their semester. I often times find myself craving unhealthy food and picking up to-go rather than cooking a nutritious meal because of the time that it takes. Many people pull all nighters in the library and miss out on much needed sleep in hopes of cramming information into their brain at the last minute.
We are all guilty of neglecting our general well being during a time of high stress, regardless of the cause.
Surprisingly, small amounts of stress may actually be good for you.

According to Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, “some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.” In studies on rats, they found that significant but brief stressful events caused improvements in performance and more mature brain cells. Additionally it also helps to boost the production of new neurons, specifically in the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for memory.
 Despite these findings, chronic stress proves to be harmful to both the brain and the body. In contrast, it seems to suppress the production of new cells and inhibits memory. It also can lead to a number of physical and psychological problems such as potentially increasing ones risk of being overweight, developing heart disease and experiencing depression, anxiety and sleep problems.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to manage and cope with your stress.
1. Set realistic goals… Do not overwhelm yourself by setting too high of expectations. Set obtainable goals to help reduce your level of stress. Manage your time so that you do not have to do everything at once. Prioritize and divide up your tasks so that you can make the most of your time with as little stress on your body.
 2. Exercise regularly… Exercise is a great way to release some energy that may be building up and also helps to release endorphins, which will help to make you feel happier and more energized. It can also help to regulate your sleep. Be sure to make a little extra time to get moving during times of high stress rather than simply pushing it to the side.
3. Eat healthy meals… Properly fueling your brain and body will help your energy levels, your attention, your sleep, and more. Do not skip meals!
 4. Spend time with friends and family… Spending time with people who make you laugh can have a very positive effect on your stress level. Take some time to talk to friends or family, discuss your stress
5. Spend time outdoors… The vitamin D from sunlight can help to elevate levels of serotonin. Spending time outside can also help to clear your mind from cluttered thoughts and help to relax your body. Take periodic breaks from your work or studying to spend some time outdoors.
6. Don’t skip out on sleep…Stress often times interferes with our normal sleep schedule by keeping us up or waking us up periodically throughout the night. Sleep is important for brain recovery, retaining information and to help with alertness and focus.
7. Avoid… caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as they are stimulants and will increase your level of stress. Instead, stay hydrated with water or tea to keep your body hydrated.
8. Take a warm bath or shower… it can help to calm your mind and body. Yoga and meditation are also great options to clear your mind and take a break from your stress.
 Don’t ignore the problem… take steps to think more positively and manage your time so that you can avoid an extremely stressful situation. While stress is usually inevitable, some of these tips can help to lessen the negative effects that stress can have on your body and your well being!

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