Stress Management
A College Student Guide
From: "Stress Management: A College Student Guide", printed by Santa Barbara City College Health Services & Wellness Program (circa 2002).
This is NOT meant as a professional service. It is simply a guide.
If you are feeling seriously stressed, please visit Mental Health Services at
Building W-12 on the Santa Maria Campus of Allan Hancock College
Causes | Signs | Management | Relaxation Techniques

What is Stress?

Stress is an every day fact of life. You can't avoid it. It is any change you must adjust to. There is positive stress and negative stress. From a positive point, stress enables one to focus and perform at their highest efficiency such as writing a term paper, competing in a sports event, avoiding danger or facing challenges. Once the challenge has been met, a person should relax and take "time out".

Negative stress occurs the person can't or won't relax after an incident and constantly stays "up" or tense. The body responds with physiological and psychological responses that eventually can affect one's health, relationships and goals. Identifying your stress and developing healthy coping strategies will produce balance and happiness in your life.

Common Causes of Stress
  • Recently moved.
  • Living on own for the first time.
  • New job or needing a job.
  • Concerns about school.
  • Financial worries.
  • Relationships
  • Divorce.
  • Family problems.
  • Losses.
Signs of Stress
  • Problems with eating or sleeping.
  • General tiredness.
  • Anxiety attacks.
  • Increases alcohol or other drug use.
  • Changes in exercises
  • Physical changes - headaches, backaches, muscle aches, stomach tightness, frequent indigestion, diarrhea and urination; colds and infections; frequent accidents and minor injuries.
  • Increased frustration or anger with small problems that arises
Managing Stress
  • Be aware of what "stresses you out". Try to identify the things in life that make you feel stressed.
  • Take time out for yourself everyday, even if only for a few minutes.
  • Think positive. "Roll with the punches". Be flexible. We can't control everything around us. Look at change as an interesting challenge - a natural part of life.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself. Choose your own goals, not goals others have chosen for you.
  • Ask for help. Sometimes we just need to "unload" with a friend.
  • Exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep (6-9 hrs.) and avoid alcohol and other drugs. Alcohol and other drugs do not relieve stress - they add to it.
  • Time management. Prioritize and plan a schedule that is realistic. Buy a calendar. Be sure to schedule leisure activities.
  • Sense of humor. Remember to laugh and not take life seriously tall the time.
Relaxation Techniques
  • Deep Diaphragm Breathing. Sit comfortably with hands on stomach. Breathe in deeply through your nose expanding your stomach as much as possible. Hold for the count of five. Exhale through your mouth. When your lungs feel empties, repeat the cycle. Repeat at least 3 to 4 times.
  • Clearing Your Mind. Find a quiet place. Sit in a comfortable position. Begin deep breathing while at the same time focusing on a particular word or place. Other thoughts will come in. That's okay - let them in and let them flow out. Continue to relax, breathe and focus. Five to ten minutes a day would be ideal.
  • Visualization. Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Begin deep breathing. At the same time, imagine yourself in a beautiful, peaceful place, imagining yourself being everything you want to be. Visualize in your mind all the details such as a beautiful island, warmth of the sun and seeing yourself achieving your desired goals. Your imagination can create needed relaxation and a positive outlook.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation. In a quiet place, lie down on your back. Take three deep breaths. Starting at your feet, tighten your toes as much as possible - hold for count of three then release. Next, to your ankles, tighten for count of three then release. Continue up your body, concentrating on each part as you tighten and release. This is an ideal relaxation for times you have difficulty sleeping.
© 2003-2009, Dominic J. Dal Bello