Stress isn’t just a mental situation, it’s something more

An assignment is due by the end of the week, exams are in another couple of weeks, and you are working a part-time job. Stress is a part of everyday life, and for students it is a huge part of their world.

But stress isn’t just a mental thing, it can affect the body as well.

Dr. Krystle Martin, a registered clinical and forensic psychologist in Oshawa, says stress can affect the body in a negative way but it can also have a positive influence as well.

She says it is a motivator to do something challenging, or can help someone overcome obstacles in their way.

Martin says the sweaty palms and anxious feeling when facing a challenge is actually stress working in a positive way.

“[Stress] can increase chemicals in ours bodies that activate heartrate and breath, which then allows our muscles to function more efficiently,” she said, “And it allows our brains to hyper-focus so we are able to focus on a task.”

She says hyper-focusing is a good thing when a student is trying to study for a test, because it allows them to focus only on that one task.

However, Martin says while hyper-focusing can be good in small doses, it can also make managing other tasks difficult. A student who is trying to sleep may struggle because “their mind will not shut off,” which then also affects the ability to focus due to lack of sleep.

Some people experience irregular bowel movements, involuntary shaking, chest pains, headaches, muscle aches, nausea, trouble sleeping, and many other negative side effects caused by stress, according to Learning Psychology, a website that explains stress.

But there are ways students can cope with stress and make it a little more bearable. Durham College and UOIT students have access to the FLEX Centre, a workout gym in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre.

Some students go there to get rid of their stress. Kent Ternura, a student in the Dental Assisting course at Durham College, goes to the gym quite often to clear his mind.

“You have like a mental [break], your thoughts are classified a little bit better and you have time to breathe and sweat and you also took the time to sort things out,” he says.

This is only one of many ways that students can relieve stress. Going for a walk, doing something you enjoy, breaking the work up into manageable pieces, and many other things can help with the long-term effects of stress.

If a student feels there doesn’t seem to be an end to it, there are other ways to get help. You can make an appointment at the Access and Support Centre. They coach students through different ways to handle stress and further support if they need more than coaching.