- The last week of St. Clair's winter semester is here and students are now finishing their courses with exams, final projects, papers and presentations.
It can be a particularly stressful time of year for students, so it's important to learn how to deal with and cope with this stress, and not let it stand in your way of success!
Fitness & Health Promotion Coordinator Deborah Ivey says it's important to understand the signs associated with stress.
"Students may be experiencing headaches, insomnia, fatigue, depression, anger and irritation, they may be fearful and panicky, they might have stomach pain and they may not be able to concentrate," explains Ivey.
She says exercise is a simple tool to deal with stress in the following ways:
- Exercise decreases muscular tension. "Exercise gives you that outlet for your body to do something and to apply your energy towards something that will decrease muscular tension, because a lot of tension builds up in our bodies when we are stressed," explains Ivey.
- Exercise requires for you to be in a continuous and rhythmic state when you're moving. "So when you're participating in these activities, alpha waves are increased in your brain, and it's the same thing you would experience with meditation," says Ivey. "So there's a calming effect and your brain feels calm."
- When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. This is linked to a feeling of happiness and feeling less stressed. "If your physical activity is over 30 minutes, then you have endorphins that are released, and endorphins decrease pain," explains Ivey. "So they're kind of like morphine-like painkillers. So with exercise, you'll have less pain."
- Exercising diverts your attention away from the stress of studying. "If you walk away, even just for a small period of time, you divert your attention and clear your mind," says Ivey. "Really, this helps to put all those study pieces back together. Sometimes it's too much data to process when you're studying – too many pieces to align – so if you study for a bit, then take a bit of a break for a bit of exercise, those pieces of the puzzle come together and then you can get back to studying."
As for nutrition, Ivey says while it is easy to turn to sugar or caffeine for a quick lift, in the end this feeds the signs of stress.
"The sugar crash can be awful and lead to feelings of depressing and feeling fatigue and not being able to study," says Ivey. "So, it's difficult at times to not turn to sugar and caffeine.