Stressing the importance of stress

Only a month into the school year, I’m already feeling a bit overwhelmed by all my responsibilities. With the weight of academics, extracurricular activities, and college preparations steadily growing heavier, senior year is definitely looking ominous.

These responsibilities are stressful and I can only imagine how much this will escalate in a couple of months. We, as students, so ubiquitously use “stress” to describe the difficulties of high school, but in psychology, the term is used to refer to a trigger response we have that disturbs either our physical or mental health. Since it is used so loosely in a variety of situations, it is crucial to look at the myths surrounding it.

First off, stress is not the same for everyone, so don’t be under the misconception that my stress is the same as yours. Just as our stresses are different, the way we respond to them is different as well, and the effectiveness of these different methods may vary in dealing with the feeling. I’ve been living under the false impression that stress is always bad for you, but according to the American Psychological Association, managed stress can actually provide the force to be productive and happy. Unmanaged stress, on the other hand, may carry serious health risks.

If you think about it, all animals have some sort of a stress response, which can be life-saving in dangerous situations. The nerve chemicals and hormones released during these stressful times prepare the animal for the “fight-or-flight” response, meaning that they either face the threat or run from it. Stress works with more complexity in humans, but the heart of the matter is that there are potential benefits from stress and the ability to control it.

It’s important to realize that stress itself is not an illness, but with the right circumstances, it can certainly lead to serious ones. In order to avoid this ramification, the stress must be addressed early on. Recognizing the signs and symptoms early will aid in finding coping methods, as well as staying away from unhealthy ones such as drinking or smoking.

Prevention of stress is not always feasible, but managing it more effectively is. Learning how to relax, exercising regularly, adopting good time-management techniques, and talking things through, among other methods, can be helpful in relieving stress. Coping methods are different for everyone, so figuring out what’s best for you is one step closer to tackling stress. If you’re unsure of where to start, this is a list of relaxation techniques that can help.

If stress-management methods are not identified, the long-term activation of the stress-response system and the exposure to stress hormones such as cortisol, can disrupt our body processes, potentially causing an increased risk for anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, and so forth.

As high school gets progressively more stressful and responsibilities just keep building, learning how to deal with stress early is one of the most valuable things you can do for your own health.