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Washington and Lee University

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Stress Management

It is not uncommon for college and law students to experience stress as they manage academic responsibilities, social activities, and pressures from home or one's own expectations. Stress can be chronic (e.g., a health problem) or acute (an accident). Although we usually think of stressors as negative (e.g., parent's divorce), positive events (e.g., getting into graduate school) can be stressors as well. It has also been established that hassles, or mild daily stressors can be highly stressful. Although some stress is helpful as a motivator for optimal performance, high levels of stress can impair performance (e.g., intense test anxiety). Frequent symptoms of stress can include anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, poor sleep, changes in eating, sense that there is not enough time in the day, muscle tension, susceptibility to physical problems, and difficulty experiencing pleasure during leisure time. There are numerous strategies that can help you to decrease and manage your stress level. Some suggestions are listed below. Further assistance is available through University Counseling.

Many students seek counseling in order to learn better coping strategies for stress. Some things to keep in mind about stress:

  • Not all stress is bad. A moderate amount of stress can keep you motivated without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Even positive changes can be stressful, such as finding a job and getting married.
  • Chronic, daily stressors like meeting deadlines, can be as harmful as sudden, unexpected stressors like as an illness in the family.
  • Some people may have personalities that make it easier to cope with stress, but everyone can learn how to cope with stress better.

Strategies for reducing stress
1. Down time every day: even small blocks of time can be helpful 

  • activities you enjoy
  • relaxation exercises
  • meditation
  • yoga

2. Exercise: 30 minutes most days of the week 

  • even 10 minutes of walking can be helpful
  • work out with a friend to stick with it
  • get involved in a sport

3. Nutrition:

  • eat breakfast
  • don't skip meals
  • plan for healthy snacks

4. Sleep: at least 8 hours
5. Multitasking: only useful for simple tasks
6. Utilize social support
7. Confrontation: address concerns with others directly