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How we’ve learned to conquer stress

December 14, 2022
Author: Samantha Allan

Two student leaders share their strategies

Have you been more tired than you should be? Are you having trouble with digestive issues or chronic pain? Maybe you’ve been unable to focus or feeling abnormally sad or irritable. These are just a few of the signs that you may be suffering from stress. This is the time in the semester where many post-secondary students feel the heaviest stress. 

Trying to balance academics with the demands of family, work and life can get pretty hard at times, even for the most organized and diligent students. But using some proven stress management techniques can help you maintain a work-life balance and keep you physically and emotionally healthy throughout your educational journey.

Campus leaders are experts on maintaining this balance, so we asked the co-leads from the VIU Student Leadership Circle, Caiden Edwards and Natasha Ladouceur, for their advice on how to be successful in conquering stress.

How do you manage stress?

When you’re already stressed, adding stress management to your list of to-dos may sound like a big ask. But “stress can have consequences for our emotional and mental well-being,” says Natasha. “It can inhibit our creativity, motivation, energy and, perhaps worst of all, lead to burnout.”

Managing stress will look different for everyone. In Caiden’s case, he creates time for hobbies and personal skill-building activities like skateboarding or snowboarding. “I also like to spend time with people I am close to, which I find puts me in a good head space,” he adds.

Natasha echoes this sentiment, saying “I manage stress by allowing myself at least one ‘me’ day per week, where I indulge in my hobbies and spend time with friends and family.”

How have you addressed the impacts of stress on your life?

Once you can see how stress is controlling you, learning to control stress is a powerful – and empowering – skill. Natasha says she experiences burnout when she lets her stress go unchecked, but “I get through burnout by reminding myself this is only temporary, while also thinking of new ways to manage additional stressors in the future.”

That is to say, there is no shame in admitting to yourself and others that your stress may have the upper hand. However, once you’ve acknowledged it, “one can either rise up to the challenge and push beyond those self-imposed limits to learn new stress-management tools, or the stress becomes too much and one has to cut the added stress out of their life,” says Caiden.

Caiden and Natasha’s stress-busting tips

Our campus leaders are an exceptional example of diligence and commitment outside of the classroom, so if you’re feeling like you need a simple place to start, we have compiled a list of stress-reducing tools, activities and practices that you can adopt to master stress and use it to your advantage. 

Start on the inside

  • Practices like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, prayer or breathing exercises can help you quiet your mind.
  • Eat well, sleep enough and make good daily nutrition and hydration a top priority. A healthy body supports a healthy mind.
  • Establish boundaries and learn to say “no” – limiting your responsibilities will help you contribute more to what really matters.
  • Take control of your time. Check out the VIU Blog Post on procrastination and learn how to manage your time better.
  • Set up a support system of people that you can rely on. These people may be family, friends, faith or community groups, school resources, mentors, colleagues or classmates.

Get active

  • Walk! In nature whenever possible, or jog if you like a bit more intensity.
  • Stretching in the mornings, evenings or between study sessions will increase blood circulation, maintain flexibility and alleviate muscular tension.
  • Join a club like the VIU Table Tennis Club or VIU Girls on Fire for active fun and socializing. The VIU Mariners and Athletics also offer events and drop-in activities all year long that will help you get active, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Think outside of the box. Put on a good playlist and dance your household chores away, invite some friends out for a round of frisbee golf or take up swimming, jump-rope or indoor rock-climbing. Get a membership at the trampoline park or start boxing lessons.

Do something you enjoy

  • Creative activities are a great way to unplug and relieve stress. Journaling, creative writing, painting, DIY projects, cooking or baking are all outlets that free your mind and calm your thoughts.
  • Take up an old hobby or engage with a new one. Ever wanted to learn to play guitar? Gardening can help you save money on groceries and teach you about good nutrition.
  • Your hobbies can also translate to employable skills – think coding, blogging, photography/videography, learning a new language or volunteering. Practicing or creating time for things that you enjoy may also help you determine what you’re passionate about, boost your motivation, increase your productivity, give you a new outlook and build better relationships.

If stress gets too high

Everybody needs help from time to time. If your stress escalates, you are experiencing depression or anxiety, if you’re unable to sleep or enjoy life, or if you’re turning to unhealthy habits or substances to cope with stress, it’s time to ask for help. Reach out to:

Samantha Allan is a first-generation learner of Indigenous and British ancestry with home roots across the province of BC. She is currently a Bachelor of Business Administration, major in Management student at VIU and her long-term goal is to work in law and economic development.

Kayaking in Fæder National Park

Stress stats

  • 60.9% of Canadian post-secondary students report their past-year stress level to be “more than average” or “tremendous” – 2019 Canadian National College Health Assessment

  • Writing multiple exams around the same time and heavily weighted exams were stressors that ranked highest in frequency and severity. Interestingly, the next most prevalent stressor was meeting high self-expectations – 2020-21 Post-Secondary Student Stressors Index

  • 69% of Canadian post-secondary students reported “overwhelming anxiety” – 2019 Canadian National College Health Assessment

  • The top three mental health concerns facing post-secondary students are anxiety, depression and stressCenter for Collegiate Mental Health 2021 Annual Report

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