Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Professors, students share perspectives on managing and preventing daily stress

Monday, December 12, 2022

Every emotion serves a valuable purpose, and stress is no different: It helps create motivation to meet daily demands, according to an article by MedlinePlus. There is such a thing as too much stress, however, especially for students going through significant life changes and experiencing higher levels of responsibility.

According "Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior," an article by Mayo Clinic, it is important for students to find ways to cope with stress, because if it is not addressed correctly and effectively, it could begin to alter mental and physical health.

Finding ways to combat stress at its core can help to avoid heavier feelings of stress that may transpire later on. Family studies professor Tony Faber said small but regular obstructive choices can compound into bigger issues.

“College students already have a lot of stress: financial stress, stress of success in classes,” Faber said. “When we have life events happen or choices we made that put us further behind in our courses, that could lead to further stress about achieving future goals.”

Faber said looking at small stressors as opportunities for growth and development, rather than detriments, can make those issues more manageable.

Faber teaches a trauma-informed professional class in which students learn about resiliency, or how people grow and recover from adversity. One of the main poin

ts Faber teaches is the difference between fixed and growth mindsets, which comes from a model psychologist Carol Dweck developed in the 1990s.

Faber explained the growth mindset as looking at a situation as a challenge achievable through hard work and effort.

The fixed mindset, as Faber explained it, is when someone feels they are good at something or they aren’t, no matter how much effort they put in. This mindset can stifle motivation and willingness to try overcoming challenges because it is coming from a place of believing there will be no success.

Being conscious about their mindset when dealing with collegiate challenges can help students change their approach to stress and tackle it head-on, rather than ignoring it until it becomes too overwhelming.

Students can also apply this approach to financial stress by avoiding the mindset that their financial situation is irreparable and out of their control.

Accounting, economics and finance professor Liu Yang said the best way to handle financial stress is by creating a daily budget and using a spending tracker. Yang said being aware of finances and knowing where certain money is going creates a better understanding of spending patterns, so there aren’t moments of shock when there is less money in a bank account than one may have expected.

College students can invest in themselves by making sure to take care of themselves, even when they are stressed.

“Your life is about investments, right?” Yang said. “It’s not just about the investments on stock markets, but is also investing in yourself.”

Senior psychology major Olivia Standerfer teaches yoga in the Cape Girardeau community and has found ways to manage stress through self-care.

Standerfer said she has learned to practice nonattachment, which has helped her with collegiate stress because it reminds her college is temporary.

“My emotions are not part of me, but something that’s a reaction to external things,” Standerfer siad. “Being able to say, ‘OK, I’m feeling stressed, let me put this stress down for a minute and focus on me,’ I can remind myself that I am myself. Not my emotions, not my stress, not my anxiety.”

Standerfer said she also manages stress by paying attention to the signals her body is sending when she is going into a state of stress. When her palms get sweaty and she feels out of breath, she knows she needs to take a step back.

“I like to say to myself, ‘OK, Sister, I can do this.’ And it may not mean I can do whatever is causing me stress like a test, homework, paying a bill or whatever it is, it just means I can get myself out of this anxious state I’m in, and then I just breathe,” Standerfer said.

While it is easy to become overwhelmed with stress, Standerfer finds it important to balance her responsibilities with the things that bring her joy.

“What has helped me a lot with that is finding one thing a day I can do just because it makes me happy, not because it’s going to benefit me financially, physically, academically,” Standerfer said. “I just think everybody needs a little bit more joy in their life.”