HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

Table of Contents

 Section I–Common Health Problems Caution

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“A friend of mine had 9 papers to write in 2 days. We all watched her eat 25 peanut butter cups and go into a strange laughing fit we called “crack up!”

Nancy M., University of Colorado

College years can be great fun. They can also be filled with a lot of stress. You have to deal with a lot of changes. These include:

bullet Separation from home and friends
bullet Adjusting to a new place to live, which can be small, noisy, cluttered, and lack privacy
bullet Academic overload and financial demands
bullet Competition, fear of failure, and making career choices

Stress is the way you react to these and other changes. Stress can make you more productive. It can make you study harder to get good grades. High stress levels, though, can make you less productive.

Signs & Symptoms


Physical symptoms of stress include increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, tense muscles, sleeping poorly, and changes in appetite.


Emotional reactions include irritability, anger, losing your temper, and lack of concentration.


Prevention and self-care measures deal with most cases of stress. When these are not enough, counseling and/or medical care may be needed. Counseling services at your school may be free.

Questions to Ask

Are you so distressed that you have recurrent thoughts of suicide or death and/or do you have impulses or plans to commit violence?


Are you abusing alcohol and/or drugs (illegal or prescription) to deal with stress? Yes - See Provider



Do you have any of these problems often?

  • Anxiety

  • Nervousness

  • Crying spells

  • Confusion about how to handle your problems

Yes - See Provider


Do you withdraw from friends, relatives, and coworkers and/or blow up at them at the slightest annoyance? Yes - See Provider


Do you suffer from a medical illness that you are unable to cope with or leads you to neglect proper treatment? Yes - See Provider


Have you been a part of a traumatic event in the past (e.g. rape or assault) and now experience any of the following?
  • Flashbacks (reliving the stressful event), painful memories, nightmares
  • Feeling easily startled and/or irritable
  • Feeling "emotionally numb" and detached from others and the outside world
  • Having a hard time falling asleep and/or staying asleep
  • Anxiety and/or depression
Yes - See Provider



bullet Listen to music that you find soothing while at a quiet, calm place. Meditate.
bullet Get regular exercise.
bullet Get as much sleep and rest as you can.
bullet Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day.
bullet Reduce noise in your environment.
bullet Eat healthy foods. Avoid foods high in fat and sugar. Eat at regular times. Don't skip meals.
bullet Take a vitamin/mineral supplement that gives 100% of "Daily Values" for nutrients. Don't take ones marked "Stress Formula" on the label. High doses of some nutrients in these, such as vitamin B6, can be harmful.
bullet Limit caffeine. It causes anxiety and increases the stress response. Avoid nicotine and other stimulants, such as No-Doz and diet pills.

Talk about your troubles with family,
friends, or a member of the clergy.

bullet Balance work and play. Plan social and extracurricular activities in the time you have left after class, work, and sleep. Don't take on more activities than you can reasonably do in a given day or week. Set priorities.
bullet Take charge. Although you can't control other people's actions, you can control your response.
bullet Don't try to please everyone. You can't.
bullet Set up and maintain good study habits. Get prepared for tests and papers throughout the course of the class so you don't need to cram for them the night before they are due.
bullet Reward yourself with little things that make you feel good.
bullet Help others.
bullet Don't suppress having a good cry. Tears can help cleanse the body of substances that form under stress. Tears also release a natural pain-relieving substance from the brain.
bullet Do relaxation exercises daily. Good ones include visualization (imagining a soothing, restful scene), deep muscle relaxation (tensing and relaxing muscle fibers), meditation, and deep breathing.
bullet Count to 10 when you're so upset you want to scream. This gives you time to reflect on what's bothering you and helps to calm you down.
bullet Modify your environment to get rid of or manage your exposure to stress.
bullet Rehearse for stressful events. Imagine yourself feeling calm and confident in an anticipated stressful situation.
bullet View changes as positive challenges. Don't get down on yourself if you don't do well on a test. Plan to be better prepared next time. Ask your academic advisor or others for help.
bullet When a difficult problem is out of control, accept it until changes can be made.
bullet Escape for a little while. Watch a movie, visit a museum, etc.
bullet Laugh a lot. Keep a sense of humor.
bullet Take a warm shower or bath.
bullet Don't drink alcohol or take drugs to deal with stress. Have a warm cup of herbal tea.

ComputerFor Information, Contact:

  • Your school's Student Affairs Office, Financial Aid Office, Career Development Office, etc.
  • Your school's Student Counseling Service, Mental Health Service, or Student Health Service
  • Stress Management and Emotional Wellness Links:

©2005, 6th edition. American Institute for Preventive Medicine All rights reserved.
The content on this website is proprietary.

December 08, 2005