Recognition key to stress management

By Amy Fredette

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Midterms have descended upon the students at the UA, and for some, so have the sleepless nights, headaches and anxiety.

In most cases, midterms are unavoidable. Stress, on the other hand, can be avoided.

"Everybody experiences stress to varying degrees," said Robert Evans, a local marriage and family therapist. "Stress is created; it doesn't just happen."

Stress can be either good (eustress), or bad (distress), he said. An example of good stress is receiving a good grade, or the joy of receiving a diploma.

Bad stress occurs when "the interpretation of certain events is dire or scary," Evans said. For some, stress manifests itself in "bad situations that people are unable to see a way out of."

A student who is forced to take a mandatory course that he/she is not doing well in and is unable to drop is an example of a bad situation, he said.

Some signs of stress are changes in diet or sleep patterns, anxiety, the inability to concentrate, irritability, feeling overwhelmed or headaches.

Evans said that in "extreme cases" people lose jobs, partners or proper body functioning. Loss of normal body functioning due to stress can lead to ulcers, migraines and gastrointestinal disease, he said.

Indirectly, it can lead to accidents and suicides as a result of preoccupation and diversion, he said.

"People need to find avenues to deal with their stress," said Olga Carranza, a Student Health Services psychologist who holds a weekly relaxation group that operates on a walk-in basis.

"With midterms happening, students are just having so many exams," Carranza said. "Their sleeping habits have shifted and they are becoming overwhelmed."

Brandi Hopkins, a French freshman, was having stressful residence hall problems. Under the recommendation of her resident assistant, she began attending Carranza's group. So far, she has attended six sessions.

Hopkins said that participants in the relaxation group usually come in, take their shoes off, lie on the floor and listen to background music while Carranza verbally guides them into a relaxed state.

"It makes a world of difference," Hopkins said.

Students can also choose to meet with psychologists or psychiatrists to work through stress-related issues, Carranza said.

Nicole Jacobson, a health education senior, said that she probably would not use Student Health Services to help her deal with stress. She said her busy schedule would not allow her time to use the services offered.

Jacobson said she likes to prevent stressful situations before they happen by "getting really organized.

"I make sure that everything's in perfect order to the best of my ability," she said. "That way, there aren't any surprises."

The center also offers a form of stress therapy called biofeedback. Biofeedback is a "tool used to increase (a person's) awareness of stress-related symptoms or diseases," said Jill Grassman, mid

a biofeedback therapist at Student Health Services.

It teaches students how to observe and then listen to cues their bodies give them, Grassman said.

Some of the cues that Grassman cited are cold hands and changes in breathing and heart rates.

Once a person learns to listen to these cues, he/she becomes more conscious of how his/her body responds to stress. The individual then learns how to change his/her responses in order to alleviate the stress.

"Students can see how the mind impacts the body," Grassman said.

She said that it's important for students to start dealing with stress now because when you get older, it's more difficult to change.

Chris Egan, a communications senior, said he thinks that rationalization is the key to dealing with stress. He said that if he receives a bad exam grade, he tells himself that he tried to do his best. Egan said that if he fails to properly prepare himself, he simply takes his bad grade in stride.

"I realize that life's such a joke anyway, so why even bother (getting stressed out)," Egan said.

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