By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

As students, we tend to feel like we’re expected to balance so much in a college atmosphere. Between class projects, term papers, studying, day jobs, clubs, leadership, applying for grad schools or jobs, and wanting to be able to sleep occasionally there just doesn’t seem time to fit everything in. Unfortunately, trying to handle everything may cause stress in many students. Small amounts of stress are actually helpful. It stimulates productivity and motivates people to get things done in order to experience that relief after finishing a big project or final. Think about it this way, if you weren’t at all concerned about what grade you’ll get would you have any motivation to study? However, excessive amounts can cause detrimental symptoms such as muscle tension, colds and sickness, and fatigue as well as more drastic ones such as depression, high blood pressure, and ulcers.

There are four main sources that cause stress. The first cause is the environment, which includes stressors such as noise, pollution, traffic, crowds, and weather. The second is physiological stresses which come from illness/injury, and poor sleep or nutrition. The third is self-induced stress which comes from things such as negative thoughts and perfectionism. The last is social stressors. These include financial problems, work demands, school work, and social events. It is easier to deal with and reduce stresses in our lives if we can figure out the cause.

One of the most important steps to avoiding excessive stress levels is to try to maintain your overall health. This may be a struggle for many busy college students, but simply eating well and sleeping enough hours a night does wonders for your ability to cope in stressful situations. Many students feel that they don’t have time for sleep especially around finals week because of all of the exams and projects they have. Lack of sleep decreases your ability to retain information, and that plus your heightened stress level will make it difficult to concentrate. So keep this in mind for the next test you have to study for.

So, use winter break to actually take a break. Take the time to get back into your workout routine (don’t wait for the post-new year’s crowds), read the novels you’ve replaced with textbooks during the semester, cook some recipes now that you’re not confined to the dining hall, or ask you parents to get you the massage you’ve been dreaming about for the past month for Christmas. Find your happy place and plan ways to keep yourself there through the stresses of next semester.