As the semester progresses, assignments and exams begin to pile up to an overwhelming amount. There is a strong obligation to sustain a high GPA, participate in extracurricular activities and handle the many uncomfortable social situations that many students tend to undergo. Maintaining stable focus on academic pursuits is easier said than done. There are often other external factors that trigger emotions prone to causing distraction from this primary focus. No amount of self-convincing is efficient in implementing the belief that these emotions have no impact on the ability to focus on school and what many refer to as “what’s important.” This attempt to force focus during a busy time of the semester is the most common cause of stress and anxiety among students.
Contrary to popular belief, the number of exams and assignments does not affect stress level, but how students choose to regard their busy schedule does. Typically, there are two mindsets that linger throughout the week: the pessimistic “There’s just no way I can get through this week” and the more optimistic “I’m gonna try to work through this week.” These two approaches are accompanied by different emotions that influence concentration levels and absorption of academic material.
Another contributor to stress and anxiety levels, especially for college students, is caffeine. Caffeine and stress both increase the body’s levels of cortisol, which is released into the bloodstream as the body’s reaction to danger, high blood pressure and stress, according to healthdirect.com. With a combination of caffeine and stress, the body looses balance, causing students to often experience mood swings and mood plummeting. These mood swings create a craving for more caffeine. This produces a cycle of anxiety. More stress drives a craving for more coffee which causes a mood plummet, which causes less emotional ability to cope with anxiety. Consequently, one ends up more stressed and the cycle continues.
An important thing to remember when coping with stress is that maintaining a good outlook on tasks rather than an exhausted one makes a huge difference, and that overcoming negative emotions is key to maintaining a stress-free mindset. Rather than allowing negative emotions to bottle up and cause frustration, communicating with close friends or family can be very relieving and make focusing much easier. In extreme cases, repression of emotions can be detrimental to mental health and cause emotional hardships, such as depression.
For many, maintaining a healthy lifestyle causes an uplift in mood and the emergence of more positive emotions than negative ones. Cardio workouts allow the brain to be more resistant to stress hormones as they release endorphins, which act as mood boosters. In other words, physical activity enhances the body’s ability to cope with stress and anxiety.
Eating habits also have a strong impact on mood and stress. Typically, the body seeks foods that are high in sugar when it is stressed, as a sort of short-term fuel. Sugar highs provide a great deal of energy for a very brief time period, and when they crash, moods plummet and stress increases. Eating foods low in glucose is important to regulating mood and preventing polarization of emotions.
Managing school, work and social life seems nearly impossible when tasks and events are thrown up in the air and left unorganized. Planning each day in a way that allows time for studying, socializing, working out and resting is key to staying on task and maintaining efficiency while minimizing stress. Organization promotes a positive mindset and positive emotions to help decrease stress and anxiety.
Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.