Ilona Phillips, a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services, on what you can do to avoid freak-outs, breakdowns and day-to-day strain

Brian Merlos

1 The “work hard, play hard” philosophy is counterproductive if playing with drugs and alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and marijuana an anxiety stimulant, and both are bad medicine for the depressed and anxious.

2 No matter how busy you are, you can spare 30 seconds to take a breath. In the midst of crunch time, take stock of how stress is affecting your body – shoulder tension, clenched teeth – and consciously relax your body with slow, deep breathing.

3 If you’re struggling to fall asleep, staying in bed magnifies your frustration. Get up and do a quiet activity. Avoid TV and your computer, the light from which stimulates your body like daylight does. Adopt a regular, 30-minute bedtime routine to take your mind off work and signal your body that it’s time for sleep.

4 Involvement in several extracurricular activities or unrealistic academic ambitions trap a lot of students into unnecessary pressure. Do you really need to belong to all of those clubs? How will you benefit from achieving each goal? If your time and energy is being overdrawn, evaluate what you can afford to cut.

5 You can only go full-throttle for so long. Prolonged over-arousal leads to a surplus of the hormone cortisone, which will wear down your coping mechanisms and eventually inhibit your immune system and emotional equilibrium.

6 If you’re a perfectionist, ask yourself why. You might be too concerned with achieving expectations you perceive family or society have for you. If your mood or anxiety levels fluctuate drastically after one disappointment, you’re relying too much on external elements to reinforce your self-esteem.

7 Living with stress takes a toll on your health and overall quality of life. Even if you make it through college without a breakdown, you might end up 10 years down the road with an aggravated heart condition and still not very happy.

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