Stress is not a foreign concept to college age students, but dealing with it often is. Linda Jackson, CSP coordinator at Arkansas Tech University, hosted an event on Tuesday, Feb. 13 titled, “From Hot Mess to No Stress,” for that particular reason.
In this stress workshop, particularly aimed for emerging student leaders struggling with stress management, Ms. Jackson emphasized how individuals in leadership not only struggle with the work load that they are given in their courses, but also with the work load received from their student organizations.
She led the participants of this workshop through an exercise to compartmentalize their daily activities and, “create some structure,” considering through her experience, Ms. Jackson found that the root of stress is often found in disorganized settings or when things seem, “all over the place.”
To begin the activity, participants folded a sheet of paper to create compartments and provide that necessary structure.
The first task was to create a to-do list for the following day, and detail everything that the student had to carry out within this day.
Next, she advised students to label the events in terms of their gravity, how important they are in the scheme of their whole day, their urgency, how quickly the task needed to get done, if the task can be delegated, and if the task was something that would be advisable to ask for help on.
“Develop a one liner,” emphasized Ms. Jackson. Often, especially for leaders, the task of saying no can be rather arduous, but saying no can actually be done in a nice way, and it is encouraged to prevent from spreading yourself too thin.
Developing a one liner means coming up with a phrase that you can employ when you need to say no. For example, addressing that you have a prior engagement or need to study for an exam that has a heavy pull on your grade are things that can be brought up. Leaving the offer open at the end in saying something along the lines of, “maybe next time,” leaves an open offer so it is still known that you are flexible.
Being intentional in all events and endeavors taken on is another important aspect in dismissing stress from every-day life.
“How you start and end your day matters,” Ms. Jackson continued. She highlighted the power of relaxation techniques such as breathing and stretching to begin each day with a proper state of mind.
Accompanying those with guided imagery, picturing yourself in a serene environment and viewing your questions getting answered, are smaller scale techniques to relive stress almost immediately and regain focus. “The way the day starts will set the tone for that day,” said Ms. Jackson.
Students were encouraged to not spend too much time worrying about their past, future, or how they could achieve perfection, as these types of thoughts can be catalysts to anxiety. Instead, Ms. Jackson invited participants to go every day living in the present, and focusing on the now because when it comes down to it, it is the only place where you can have control. Being intentional can put a stop to this type of thinking. “Yesterday is fine as a reminder, tomorrow is good as a motivator, but if I don’t do something right now, tomorrow is never going to work out for me,” said Ms. Jackson.
Stress projects and stress outlets are two more ways in which anxieties can be minimized. Projects are things that need to be planned for completion, but the motivator is to relieve stress from our lives, not create more. An outlet is something that does not require much thinking, but instead gives you a brain break.
“I don’t know if I’m a fan or not of goal setting, but one of the things that I think is important about goal setting is that it keeps you motivated,” said Ms. Jackson. Upon discussing about the importance of goal setting itself, she invited the students to set some goals for tomorrow, the semester, the year, and then by the time they obtain their degree. “Having achievable and visible goals becomes really important,” she advised. Having goals that are not either achievable or visible causes the probability for their completion to decrease.
Goals do not need to be set in stone, either. Making a goal an absolute that must happen makes an individual feel more as though they have a burden and that the goal must be completed, but as humans we are subject to change. “If your goals change, that’s because your needs changed and you decided you were going to change it. That’s fine! It doesn’t mean you failed, it means you changed your mind,” comforted Ms. Jackson.
According to Ms. Jackson, setting priorities, asking for help when it is needed, learning how to say no, relaxing, and goal setting are all ways in which stress can be reduced on a day to day basis.
Taking a “little bit off of yourself and realizing I don’t have to be everything for everybody” as well as “taking some time off to blow off some steam,” are active ways to minimize stress and become mentally stronger in being the best and healthiest version of yourself possible.