By: Margaret Marean
(NAIT Student Counselling)

Stress is a good thing – it motivates us to achieve goals and makes us more alert. While a certain amount is normal and necessary, too much stress can be counterproductive. Feeling overly stressed is the #1 concern identified by NAIT students, and with exams and final projects looming it will likely intensify.

Here are the best tips for managing your stress levels.

· Be aware of your internal dialogue.
The fastest way to increase stress is to tell your self negative message such as “I’m such an idiot” or “Everyone else is smarter than I am”. Often the way we think about a situation increases our stress levels out of proportion to the actual event. Thinking patterns such as “People will think less of me if they know I am not perfect” or “I made a mistake so people will think I’m a total failure” are sure-fire ways to decrease confidence and increase stress. Replace self-defeating, critical thoughts with realistic positive messages such as “I will do my best”, “I know my material” or “People will like me for who I am”.

· Develop a plan.
Schedule some time to prioritize tasks and activities, make a schedule, and set boundaries. Having a plan helps you to feel in control of your life, especially during stressful periods such as exam time.

· Get organized.
Make sure your home, schoolwork, clothing, etc. are in order. Get your books, lunch and clothing ready the night before so there are no added stressors in your day. Physical clutter and disorganization increase mental clutter and disorganization.

· Work on one thing at a time.
Multitasking increases stress. Turning your phone and other distractors off while studying can make that time much more effective.

· Do a lifestyle cleanup.
Can you let go of negative relationships or obligations that are no longer rewarding? Can you avoid situations and people that upset you? Do you need to work on not comparing yourself with others?

· Exercise.
In addition to reducing stress, exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, gives you some downtime, increases self-confidence and helps you to sleep better. Any exercise that increases your heart rate for 15 to 20 minutes will help reduce stress.

· Take care of yourself!
Most people need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Fatigue reduces your ability to cope with stress.

· Good nutrition is important too.
A diet high in non-nutritious food puts more physical stress on the body and this further reduces your ability to cope. Stimulants such as caffeine, salt, chocolate, alcohol, sugar and smoking can make you more susceptible to stress.

· Build in time for yourself.
Do an activity you enjoy even if it is only for a few minutes a day. Plan something to look forward to every week.

· Be realistic.
Perfectionists always have higher stress levels. Set goals which are challenging but achievable.

· Avoid procrastination.
Putting off unpleasant tasks only increases stress.

· Develop some quick stress-reduction strategies.
Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and humour are quick ways to become calmer. Incorporating yoga, meditation and/or walking can be very beneficial.

· Talk. Being connected to other people and sharing ups and downs helps you recognize that others are going through similar emotions. Sometimes talking with someone objective can help you work through a situation. See a counselor if you have concerns that are increasing your stress or if you need to work on stress reduction techniques.

Personal counseling is free, confidential and available to all currently registered NAIT students.

Main Campus, Room W111-PB in the HP Centre:
Counselors are available from 8 – 4:15 Monday and Friday with extended hours available Tuesday to Thursday.

Souch Campus:
Counselor available Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 – 4.
Book by calling 780-378-6133 or in person in Room Z153.

Patricia Campus:
Counselor available Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 – 4. Book by calling 780-378-6133.