Stress can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to college life. In small doses (and under the right circumstances) stress can be a good thing. It can lend us focus and impetus when we need it most. It can motivate us to achieve things we never thought we’d be capable of. It can help us to rise to challenges which we thought might get the best of us and be the best that we can be in our studies and all of our endeavors. Without any stress we can be drawn into slovenly and inactive behaviors. We can go, effectively, into standby mode.

However, stress can also be a huge detriment to our mental and physical health. It can lead to a wide variety of health risks from a compromised immune system to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. It can lead to fluctuations in mood, fluctuations in weight and propel you into a number of self-destructive behaviors if you develop unhealthy ways of dealing with stress. Fail to deal with stress properly and you could find your studies suffering, your friendships deteriorating and your health waning. While there will always be help available everywhere from an alcohol treatment centre to crying on a friend’s shoulder, it’s always a good idea to educate yourself about stress. And that includes dispelling some popular myths…

Exercise and healthy eating prevent stress

Have you ever tried to tell someone that stress is getting the better of you and they’re responded with a glib reply of “Well, maybe you should exercise more!”? This is not only demoralizing, it’s also a huge over-simplification. Yes, regular exercise can flood your brain with stress-busting endorphins, and a healthy diet can help to keep stress hormones under control.

Nonetheless, these are only symptom management measures. The only way to actively prevent stress is to address its causes. And while this is rarely easy, it’s always effective.

Stress causes cancer

The last thing you need on top of an already stressful set of circumstances is the thought that your current state of mind could be giving you cancer. I mean, how is that ever going to help you to calm down? What’s more, it’s yet another over-simplification.

Chronic stress can increase your risk levels for stress (as well as other diseases) but by no means does that mean that your currently stressful lifestyle will necessitate a diagnosis of cancer. Just focus your attention on the causes of stress rather than its ill-effects.

If [insert name of stress management technique] works for your friends, it’ll work for you

You’re unlikely to be the only person in your friendship group experiencing stress at college. Yet, while they may be happy to share stress-busting tips with you, don’t make the mistake of assuming that what works for them will work for you. Yoga or mindfulness meditation may be a great outlet for your partner or friend, but they may be nightmarishly uncomfortable for you. And this discomfort may actually cause you more stress than it alleviates.

Stress management is all about finding the right healthy outlets that work for you.

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