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The Good and the Bad: How Do You Respond to Academic-Related Stress?

The Good and the Bad: How Do You Respond to Academic-Related Stress?

When we find ourselves too uneasy about studies or work, we often remind ourselves with words such as “Relax, take things one at a time, or have a break.” However, when too many things occur all at once, we start feeling we can’t manage them or are clueless about how to start. The pressure that these unexpected encounters cause us can significantly impact how we think, feel, and behave. 

What is stress?

stress

The World Health Organization defines stress as any change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. On the other hand, it is also defined as a human’s reaction when under pressure or threatened. Everyone experiences it to some degree.

Eustress 

When a person perceives a stressful situation as an opportunity to achieve good outcomes, it is called eustress or positive stress. Writer-Professor Vilma Ruddock said this in one of her books. The same applies when a person feels pressure. According to her, when managed well, these can help a person accomplish goals and succeed. 

Alia Crum, a psychologist at Stanford University, claimed that “Stress isn’t necessarily bad.” She conducts research on how mindsets affect human behavior as well as physical and mental health outcomes. 

Crum’s research found that human bodies respond to a situation the way they expect them to. Thinking that stress is bad leads to suffering. Otherwise, it helps enhance performance – people tend to rise to the challenge. Crum calls it mindset – belief about a situation matters. 

Chronic stress

Although stress has surprising benefits, it also has negative effects. According to Dr. Jeremy Sutton, such ‘stress inoculation’ in excess might affect health and even lead to serious mental and physical problems. When a person dwells on it excessively, it is not only unhealthy but has absolutely no value and purpose. 

What is stress management? 

stress management

No one’s life is completely stress-free. The way we respond, however, makes a big difference to our overall well-being. Therefore, it is important to know how to manage stress. 

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of our stress. While it’s easy to identify major stressors, pinpointing the sources of chronic ones can be more complicated. Meanwhile, understanding how we react and behave when confronted by such situations can help us recognize how to manage them better. 

Flight-or-fight response 

Humans are born with a flight-or-fight instinct. It is a physiological reaction that occurs when facing a threat. When our bodies prepare to either stay and deal with a threat or run away to safety, it releases hormones. It, then, triggers the response.  

The fight response happens to a person by confronting a situation that seems manageable for him. He instantaneously thinks of ways to overcome it. 

On the other hand, flight response happens when a person experiences fear. Persistently, this occurs before a triggering event happens. It leads to anxiety and comes with the anticipation of something that may or may not happen.

These tendencies mean that human bodies are doing their jobs. The human body handles daily stressors, and when its natural defenses kick in, it improves well-being. 

Research shows that academics can be an extreme source of stress particularly in high-pressure environments. 

Ara Mae Seno, a 4th-year accountancy student at the National University (NU), sees stress as a result of emotions felt when pressured, exhausted, or uncomfortable. As she goes through a colorful ride in life, especially as a student, she learns to dance along with the love-hate relationship she has with it. 

When it appears in short bursts, stress tends to be more manageable for her. The levels of pressure it causes usually help her build resilience to future challenges and energize her to act upon a task. 

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Upon realizing that “no one prevents stress from coming. We overcome it slowly by just doing things that give us comfort,” she had to learn to manage her stress well so it wouldn’t intensify. At times, pressure takes her mind to an irrational state, which only takes place when it becomes unmanageable. However, most of the time, she tends to be more productive and creative when under it.  

What usually causes her pressure is whenever she receives comments about her performance as a student. Nevertheless, she’d rather take the situation as a goad than look down on herself. 

“It makes me feel that I have to do better every day and improve every single time I hear criticisms.” 

The stress created by the situation can be helpful, making it more likely that she will cope effectively with the threat. 

“When I feel exhausted, I want to improve my situation. Sometimes, it encourages me to level up my work and it allows me to overcome things that trigger my emotions.” 

Being aware and open that she cannot take control of everything also helps her in situations like these. There are so many realities in the world. Some are bitter, and some are happy, but regardless, they all teach us a lesson and build us.

“There are things we can handle and some that we cannot. It doesn’t mean we should just go with the flow. Let’s go back to understanding our human selves: we are capable of many things, and sometimes we need to practice the things that stress us to get them right.”

Unless we’re in a fairytale, waking up in a stress-free world can’t be possible. We can only dream as much of it. So rather than hold on to this elusive dream, we can reverse our view of the situation with a positive response, the right way to manage it, and treat ourselves with care. 

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