Take a timeout: identifying eustress versus distress

by William Lewandowski
lewandowwi@mnstate.edu

With midterms wrapping up, advising and scheduling going on as we speak, plus class loads and personal commitments, stress, good and bad, is on the rise.
Stress is something we all experience. Looking at good and bad stress, can it all get to be too much?
Being college students, there are a lot of things on our plates. Social obligations, going home for a visit, or going to extracurricular activities all take time. Academic musts like doing homework and studying get piled on. Personal needs like sleeping and alone time are also desired. These things add up, but there are many ways to deal with this stress.
In academia, the simple use of a planner to lay out testing days, homework assignments, and study times is a great way to reduce stress instead of having to remember it all. Having a plan, budgeting time and sticking to it will also help.
But there is always one event or friend that steps in and ruins the perfectly laid out day. What has to go? The studying time that was scheduled for tonight or going bowling with friends?
With all this conflict, these obligations keep fueling our stress. The feeling of having to do so many things can be overwhelming. However, with good management skills the long days of work and struggle can become a cinch; even then it can still be hard on one’s body and health.
There are many things other than school and family that can cause distress. Experiencing a death or major surgeries or illnesses within the family can cause deep amounts of stress. Being in an abusive relationship, unemployment, insomnia, or losing contact with someone close can all be additional stressors.
And they take a toll. With long periods of stress, our bodies will become unhealthy. Our immune systems weaken and pain and headaches grow. Anxiety and depression can be the result of all this.
Last week I personally had to go into the emergency room to get checked because my side was hurting and constantly going numb. I was getting light-headed and dizzy, my stomach was nauseated, and I kept getting headaches and heartburn. I sat for three hours with no help, but the quietness of the lobby and nothing to worry about kept me calm. The calmness combined with not having any worries took the stress away. I realized, without any medical attention, my pain was self-caused because of the overwhelming amount of stress I was feeling.
In all this craziness and distress, it is important to identify eustress. Eustress essentially means “good stress.” Many things can be considered eustress: getting a new job, planning for spring break, marriage or moving and changing majors are all sources of good stress.
Finding time to relax, adding a couple hours to your day to work out or going out with friends can add eustress to your day and make you a happier person; having time in any day to have a blast of dopamine run through helps when dealing with a lot of stress.
So it’s important to find a balance between distress and eustress. Although essential to have distress, too much can cause problems. But having too much eustress will allow too much fun and steer you away from what’s really important.
With all our planning for future semesters or graduation, making sure grandma gets her visit on the weekends and maybe fitting in a job, remember there needs to be some fun in all this college craziness.
With spring break next week, use that time to relax and take it easy. Don’t worry about school too much, but don’t forget it’s there, either.
Have a great spring break, fellow Dragons.

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