According to Donna LaBarge, a counselor with UF Wellness & Counseling Center, there are three different types of stress: cognitive, emotional and physical. She said when students become overly focused on one aspect of stress, such as the physical concerns from Crohn's disease, they might not attend to the others.
"You want them to be in balance," LaBarge said. "You want to have your mental thought cognitive stress, your emotional relational stress and your physical health all working together."
Physical Stress Relief
LaBarge said the center recommends balanced eating and physical activity as ways to manage physical stress.
"Balanced eating doesn't mean eating all the comfort food you want, and it doesn't mean diets either. It means really listening to your body and what the needs are at that time," she said. "Physical activity is not exercise. Physical activity can be anything from Just Dance on the Wii to yoga stretching by Lake Alice -- whatever you find enjoyable. If it becomes not fun or not enjoyable, that's usually an exercise thing."
Cognitive and Emotional Stress Relief
Image from Flickr user jugbo
For cognitive relief, LaBarge said the center recommends doing a puzzle or reading a book that won't cause stress.
"For a lot of people, their academic program is what they like to study and is what they like to take their mental energy for, but sometimes studying for an exam is exactly what's making us stressed," she said. "Find opportunities to take a break, but also use that mental energy in a different way."
LaBarge said students can find relief from multiple types of stress by doing a single activity.
"One of the ways to blend the cognitive stress relief with the emotional stress relief is things like journaling or scrapbooking, or sometimes people like to make collages," she said. "Artwork and music is sort of a really nice blend of releasing cognitive stress and emotional stress."
Another emotional release is talking to someone about the stress, LaBarge said. However, not all students cope with stress that way.
"For some people, when they're stressed they just need to completely be recluse and separate, ball up in their room," she said. "What we want to avoid is doing that in the long term because that'll start to interfere with other areas of the stress relief. If somebody is dealing with a health concern and it's new or something different has happened and they really need to be recluse for a little bit, maybe they're just trying to wrap their heads around it, and that can be OK, but we do want to check in and make sure that it's not turning into a long term coping style."
For help with the long-term effects of Crohn's disease, Larbarge recommends massage, acupuncture, yoga and stretching.
"Stress actually changes some of the chemical releases in the body, and so if our body is releasing these chemicals like adrenaline that hypes us up, they can get stored in the muscles too, and then we're tense," she said. "Then if we become tense, our body starts to feel the physical damage of that, and if there's already something happening with us, it just puts the whole body our of whack."
LaBarge said water and hydration also account for stress, and stress wears on the immune system.
"When we know we have a vulnerability, whether its food or physical activity or virus stuff, if we have susceptibility to that, we want to be really cautious about our stress level," she said.
Stress is fine at times because it's a motivator that drives students to do well, LaBarge said.
"I think it's really important for everybody to acknowledge that stress is going to be a part of our daily lives, especially being a college student on campus we're expected to be great at multitasking and we're expected to have a lot of productivity," she said. "All of these things are not going to take away the good stress, the motivation, they are just going to allow it to be easier on the body and not as wearing on the immune system."
Students should work stress-relieving activities into their daily routines, LaBarge said.
"It can be preventive as well to do those things that are calming and refreshing for us," she said. "Whether it's chronic health issues or just being a student on campus, it is something that we should all attend to each day even when we're not stressed out."