Stress is a word that means different things to different people. The word stress is commonly used as a vague, all encompassing negative mental state. However, to be clear there are actually two different forms of stress. Eustress represents the required stimulus humans need for constructive growth and development physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Distress on the other hand represents a destructive force either physically, mentally, or emotionally. As an example, if you wanted to lift weights in the gym in order to build muscles you are required to stimulate your body beyond its' comfort zone in order to achieve growth. This is an example of eustress. However, go too hard and you can cause a serious injury. This would be an application of distress.
For the remainder of this article we will look at the term stress as being synonymous with the concept of distress.
Stress in the VCE years comes in many shapes and sizes. Signs and symptoms of stress include anger, irritability, a short temper, a feeling of impending doom, feeling out of control, frustration, a lack of enjoyment in life, suicidal tendencies, a desire to "get away", saying or thinking "I have to" constantly and many, many others.
ACTION STEP # 1:
What are your top 5 symptoms of stress? Write them down!
On a physical level stress is bad for you in many ways. Stress causes a tightening of muscles in the neck and shoulders, clenching of the jaw, a "knotted" stomach, short, shallow breathing, rounded shoulders and forward head posture, and the release of the powerful chemical mediators of stress adrenaline and cortisol.
These stress chemicals are actually essential for our short term survival. Let me explain what I mean with an example. Imagine you are back in caveman times and you are walking down to the watering hole for a drink when you spot a saber-toothed tiger. Sensing immediate danger your body dumps adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. This will cause an increase in your heart rate, increases your cardiac output, causes your blood vessels to constrict, liberates fats and glucose into the bloodstream for energy (these all help you to get away), turns off insulin receptors (so you don't store energy you may need if the tiger keeps chasing you) increases your clotting factors( in case the tiger claws you), removes concentration & short term memory, as well as shuts down your cell mediated immune system (you really don't need these when being chased by a tiger).
If the stress response is initiated constantly then the above short term survival responses may actually lead to chronic diseases including high blood pressure (constricted blood vessels), diabetes (reduced sensitivity of insulin receptors), heart disease (increased fat in bloodstream as well as increased clotting factors) and other diseases including cancers. Now in caveman times you would have run like the wind to get away from the tiger.This is why exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress because when you exercise you use up the stress hormones, and fat and blood glucose that is released as a result as well as releasing other chemicals like opiates and serotonin to help the body return to normal.
ACTION STEP # 2: Implement one of the four stress busting techniques TODAY.
Here are four of the best ways that you can help reduce stress to help you get the best results in your VCE years.
#1 Create a Study Plan.
Firstly, we need to understand that one of the biggest sources of stress is the gap. The gap is the difference between where we are today and where we want to be. Without a well organized study plan, the VCE year can spin out of control very quickly and the mountain of work may seem completely insurmountable. If you are unsure how to design an effective study plan just check out the time management resources and study planners for more information.
#2 Employ the One & A Half Rule.
When it comes to creating your study plan, reduce your stress and employ the one & a half rule. What ever time-frame you would normally give yourself to complete a task add half of the allocated time again. In our experience, things like the occasional disruption, a toilet break, thinking time (or a computer malfunction), can easily add the time it takes to complete any given task.
Time-masters who apply this rule find that they complete tasks on time, are more relaxed and less stressed out by work and have more confidence in their ability to complete the work within the set time-frame.
#3 Catch Your Breath. When you get stressed your body goes into a defensive posture. Muscles start to tighten and your breathing becomes shorter and more rapid. By taking a few minutes to slow down your breathing you can allow a calming of your entire body helping you study more effectively.
Start by closing your eyes and place the tongue gently on the roof of your mouth.
Imagine that you have a tube that runs from your nose to your belly button. At the end of this tube is a blue balloon. Your task is to gently breathe in through your nose feeling the breath as it travels down the tube to inflate the blue balloon. Once the balloon is completely inflated slowly allow the air to leak back out into the tube and up and out through the nose.
Try to slow down the breathing with each consecutive breath. Repeat for a minimum of 10 breaths.
#4 Run it Out.
If you find yourself feeling tired and unable to study get up, put your running shoes on and go outside. Take a few big deep breaths and start with a brisk walk for about 5 minutes. Then what I want you to do is to start by running slowly at first for approximately 50 meters. Stop after 50 m and walk back to the start. Start at about 20% of your maximum speed and increase about 20% each repetition. Ideally do 2 x 50 meter run throughs at 20%, 2 @ 40%, 2 @ 60%, and 2 @ 80%.
Stretch lightly to finish and return to study energized for your next session.
Relax, Until Next Time
Yours in Better Health,
Dr Matthew Bateman
Posted on 05/31/2011 at 12:00:00 AM