During the lunch hour on Tuesday, April 10, two practicum externs from the Illinois Tech Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC) held an open discussion in the MTCC Auditorium around the topic of stress management. In the process of discussing stress management, the two externs, Roni Kholomyansky and Mary Rizzo, also looked to provide key takeaways on living with stress and being able to indulge in self-care.
Kholomyansky and Rizzo began with a quote by the endocrinologist Hans Selye, “Stress, in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.” This quote then led into a larger discussion on how one goes about defining stress. Rizzo noted that if you were to ask a dozen different people to define stress, you would very likely get a dozen different responses. What can be stressful for one person might have no effect or even be pleasurable to another. For example, one student may thrive when working under pressure while another will absolutely hate and actively avoid such a situation. In this context, stress should be interpreted as a very individual condition with individual causes, symptoms, and coping strategies.
From this individual-based interpretation of stress, discussion then shifted to how the effects of stress can vary wildly from person to person. Some individuals may experiences physical effects such as increased heart rate, sweating, fatigue, headaches, and appetite changes, while others may feel psychological effects such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and agitation. In any case, the SHWC externs concluded that the most important step is to be able to recognize when you are stressed and identify how it manifests in your specific case.
What comes after recognizing how your stress manifests? In keeping with the discussion’s theme, strategies for self-care and managing stress are also very individual in nature. Rizzo noted that, “There is no one stress reduction strategy that is a panacea." Physical activities such as jogging or aerobic exercise may be a great source of stress relief for some, but they can be seen as dull and even more stressful when arbitrarily imposed on another person. Luckily, there is no shortage of stress management techniques that one can read about and try. Meditation, prayer, exercise, tai chi, deep breathing, massage therapies, and many more strategies are all easy methods that one can employ to deal with stress.
Self-awareness and self-recognition are key elements to understanding one’s stressors and eventually identifying ways of contending with stress. It is important to understand, especially in a naturally stressful environment such as a college campus, that stress is very natural, regardless of your condition or standing in life. Your feelings are legitimate and being able to identify them and the results they may have on your body or mind are an important step in learning how to live past them. Resources such as the SHWC are available for students to learn to discover how to identify and manage their stress.