Student Health: Stressed Out?

April 13, 2009  

By Marissa Adamany
madamany@smu.edu

With the three-day weekend over, it’s time for another week of tests and quizzes. Oh, and finals are right around the corner. Stressed out, yet?

Stress causes our bodies to produce a hormone called cortisol. This hormone contributes to gaining weight, especially in the midsection. Stress also hinders willpower, making it near impossible to say “no” to that third fudge brownie.

Chronic stress makes you more vulnerable to disease, and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, causing an increased risk for heart disease. Stress also increases glucose levels, putting the body at a higher risk for diabetes.

But don’t let that all stress you out even more. Here’s what you can do to calm down and take control:

  • Go for a walk – A ten-minute walk around the beautiful boulevard will reduce stress, calm you mind, and clear your head. The fresh air does a body good.
  • Hang out with friends – Chilling with friends is a great opportunity to vent, share your favorite FML passage, or completely clear your mind of the work you have ahead. Sometimes, it’s ok to take a break.
  • Get cute – Studies show that when you feel you look good, you actually produce more serotonin in your brain, which is the “happy chemical.” Producing more serotonin will relieve negative stress.
  • Dance – Take it from Lady GaGa and… “Just dance, it will be ok, dududu Just Dance!” Enough said.
  • Look at pictures – Concentrate on a happy picture for ten seconds to reduce muscle tension and stabilize the heartbeat.
  • Take a deep breath – It sounds too easy, I know. But taking deep breaths helps slow your racing mind when you are stressed, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.
  • Say to yourself, “It will all be ok!” – Keeping a positive spin on things will help motivate you to get the job done, with spirits high.
  • Look at the big picture – In five years is this history term paper really going to determine your life’s work and meaning? Stay with me here–the answer is “no.” Do your best, but remember, your best is all you can do.
  • Still wigging out? The following foods have been shown to help lift your mood. All these foods have a high content of B vitamins that stimulate the brain’s production of that happy chemical, serotonin.

  • almonds
  • yogurt
  • pistachios
  • salmon
  • scallops
  • shrimp
  • walnuts
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