One of the best ways to manage stress as finals week approaches is to get enough sleep, an AACC nurse said last week.
Seven to nine hours of sleep every night is ideal, Stephanie Jenkins said during a stress management and strategies virtual workshop.
“Create a sleep routine,” Jenkins suggested. “Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and try to get up at the same time,” Jenkins said. “It really does help you fall asleep, stay asleep and get up feeling a little bit more refreshed.”
According to Jenkins, limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption before bedtime can lead to better sleep.
So can eating healthy meals, she said.
“Try eating a balanced, nutritious meal,” Jenkins said. “It’s not only good for stress reduction, but also for our overall health as well.”
Three sources of nutrition are the vitamins and minerals in green vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids in fish, and fiber in fruits and nuts, she said.
“When you’re stressed try to engage in some type of physical activity … whatever you like to do,” Jenkins said. She suggested walking, biking, running, jumping rope and dancing.
Other ways to manage stress, Jenkins advised, are journaling, practicing mindfulness by being in the moment, meditating and focusing on breathing.
Jenkins recommended the app “Calm,” which offers video and audio messages, along with breathing exercises.
“Stress is normal and necessary,” Jenkins said. “It’s our flight-or-fight response. Stress is a normal part of all of our lives and it actually is something that we do need. It’s just when that stress becomes overwhelming and it remains at that constant high level, that’s when you can have some unhealthy results.”
Jenkins listed three types of stress: acute, which is the most common; episodic, which is acute stress that occurs frequently; and prolonged, which can affect physical and mental health because it occurs when a stressful situation feels hopeless.
Acute stress “happens quickly but it disappears quickly and it can be a positive and exciting experience,” Jenkins said. “It doesn’t always have to be a negative experience.”
Two examples of acute stress are taking an exam and getting on a roller coaster.
With episodic stress, “you’re prone to constantly worry and you feel overwhelmed with that stress,” Jenkins said.
The negative effects of prolonged stress include digestive problems, anxiety, headaches, sleep problems, weight gain, high blood pressure, premature aging, stroke and heart disease, Jenkins said.