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Stress Management

College life can be a stressful time for many students. The transition from living at home with your parents and siblings to living somewhere far away can be tough. However, just remember as you look around Caltech, there are plenty of other people who are in the same situation as you. 

Stress is an internal response to a demand placed upon you under certain situations. Stress can be a result of having too much work and not enough time, feeling worried about something, keeping issues to oneself, or working hard to meet some goal or challenge. These include having tight deadlines, financial concerns, interpersonal relationships or sudden changes. Positive stress if anything that drives success and whether the stress is positive or negative it needs to be managed. 

HOW does it work?

Stress is your body’s response to stressors. Under certain situations, a fight or flight response results in adrenaline that increases the heart rate, increases your blood pressure, allows you to breathe more quickly, or tightens your muscles. Illnesses related to stress involve malfunctioning of the adrenal glands which cannot generate appropriate amounts of adrenaline, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Being aware of your body’s stress signals is important. 

HOW do you know if you are stressed?

Each person reacts to stress differently and some people are better than others at handling stress. Some common symptoms of stress include: 

  1. Physical responses, such as headaches, pounding of the heart and tightened muscles in the neck and lower back areas. Other symptoms may include irregular digestive problems, skin break-outs and shallow breathing. 
  2. Emotional responses include mood swings, anxiety, heightened irritability, and fearfulness. 
  3. Behavioral responses involve a difference in sleeping patterns, which is indicated by too much or too little sleep, reliance on drugs and alcohol, or isolation from social activities. 
  4. Cognitive responses are difficulty concentrating, negative view of oneself, or setting unrealistic goals and expectations.

Conquering different types of stress 

The best way to prevent stress is to talk to somebody about it. Contact the UCCs or Health Advocates of your house, who are willing to talk to you about your concerns. 

Academice Stress: If you are stressed about the workload here, learn to manage your time more effectively, and collaborate to successfully work on sets with others. Study ahead of time, and go to office hours if you do not understand the material. Most importantly, do not overwhelm yourself by taking too many units. You are here to learn and make the most out of your education. Make a to-do list to avoid procrastination and learn to choose certain activities over others. Prioritize and plan ahead! Avoid last-minute decision-making. 

Social Stress: Keep your social and academic commitments within limits. Learn to say no. Set your priorities. Take care of yourself and do what you think is right. Talk to your peers if you have problems or feel stressed about something. More often than not, they will be in the same boat, and by talking it out, the two of you can get through tough times together. Hang out with your friends and go off campus to get some food or go shopping. Make it an adventure and don’t forget that you still need to have fun during your memorable college years. 

Breaks: It is good to take breaks in between study-periods or intense activities. Walk around campus, read a book outside, or talk to a friend about what is on your mind. It is refreshing to enjoy the beautiful campus and balance your work and play time. Join us for our monthly Walk-N-Talks, which involve Caltech faculty who talk about their experiences, as they take students on a walk around the beautiful campus of Caltech. Exercise and extension of knowledge is the perfect way to relieve your stress! Listen to some music, read a book, or watch a couple of television shows to get your mind off of things. 

Exercise: Exercising at the Caltech Gym is also a wonderful way to prevent stress. Take a 30-minute time slot out of your day to exercise, whether it is running, doing a sport you love, or walking somewhere. It is a good idea to incorporate aerobic exercise into your daily routine. It is a wonderful way to utilize your body’s natural response to the flight or fight reaction. Add some Caltech PE classes to your schedule to make sure that you have some fun, easy units throughout the term. You might even end up finding something you are passionate for. 

Nutrition: Eat healthy! Keep a good diet to prevent headaches, indigestion, constipation and obesity. Decrease salt, sugar and fat, and try to avoid junk foods as much as possible. Limit the seesaw effect of drinking caffeine, a stimulant, and alcohol, a depressant.

Sleep: Make sure to maintain a regular sleep schedule. For college students, the norm should be an average 7-9 hours a day. Try to establish a consistent sleep pattern. That way, your mind can get some rest after a hard day of work, and you can be refreshed the next day, energized and ready to start the new day. An irregular sleep schedule can lead to impaired thinking, poor health and a feeling of sluggishness. Getting restful sleep is important. Check out the Health Educator office at the CSS for some sleeping eye masks and some soothing tea if needed. 

HOW can Caltech students deal with stress together?

Caltech is known to be a very rigorous school with a hard workload that may be different from your high school. Social support from your peers is an excellent way to avoid stress. t’s about having people you can really count on during stressful times. During midterms and finals week, make sure that you are still having a regular sleep and diet schedule. Take breaks with your friends and form study groups. Throughout the term, get involved on campus. Join student clubs that you are interested in, and take trips with your houses. Ask for help and advice – don’t be shy.