It’s that time of year again.  We’re heading towards the end of the academic year which means final exams and papers will be due. Most students feel some stress during finals. Some people experience stress as overwhelming and feel stuck, unable to motivate themselves to do the work they know they should do. Other people experience stress as an overwhelming feeling that causes them to try to do many things at once and stay up until everything is done perfectly. 

There are often physical symptoms that go along with stress, such as headaches or an increase or decrease in appetite. Stress can affect your immune system and make you more susceptible to any germs in your environment. If you’re not sleeping as much as usual because you’re stressed, then the lack of sleep also affects your mood and your body. 

Learning to cope with your stress is one of the most important things you can do to be successful at school and in life after college. You need to identify your unique responses to stress and find coping strategies that work. But there’s a catch! You can’t pick a new behavior and spend five minutes trying it out then expect to change the way you respond in the midst of a stressful situation.

Changing your response to stress requires practice. Your brain and body have an intricate response to stress that has operated like a well-oiled machine for years.  Compare your stress response to driving. When you first learn to drive a car it seems hopelessly complicated and overwhelming.  After you’ve been driving for a few years most of the behaviors that allow you to drive are pretty automatic. You no longer have to think of each movement and your body performs the intricate behaviors without conscious thoughts on your part. 

Your mind and body work exactly the same way when you’re stressed. You have perfected an almost immediate response to stress and you’ve practiced it so much it probably happen without conscious thought.

Imagine you’re driving in a country where people drive on the left side of the road and sit on the right side of the car. Also, the signs are in a foreign language. You’d probably want to practice in the new car in a safe place, such as an empty parking lot. You’d also want to study the signs and laws of the country.

You need to do the same kinds of safe-place practice to learn a new response to stress.  It’s also important to pace yourself appropriately when you anticipate stress. Get enough sleep and eat well to nourish your body. Study effectively and take breaks when possible. 

Listed below are some apps for your phone that help you easily practice new responses to stressful situations. With so many choices you’ll need to make sure you find one that works for you that you’re willing to use. A few minutes of practice a day will make a huge difference in how your mind and body respond to stress and you can end this semester positively.

If you find yourself in distress and need support, please visit us at the Wellness Center.  We offer a counseling walk-in clinic from 1 pm to 3 pm every weekday. Show up, sign in, and a therapist will see you as soon as possible. If you are in crisis and can’t wait for the walk-in clinic you can be seen any time we’re open for an urgent appointment. We have walk-in hours to see the nurse as well.  Please call the Wellness Center at 240-895-4289 for more information.


PACIFICA

Cost: Free (iOS & Android)
Helps: Anxiety
What it offers: Rate and track mood over time, and provides guided deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, daily anti anxiety experiments, and health goals. Record your thoughts to help analyze and understand thinking patterns, and discover and track possible triggers.

HEADSPACE

Cost: $6.24-$12.95/month, after free 10-day trial (iOS & Android)
Helps: 
Stress, anxiety, memory loss, lack of focus, creative blocks, interpersonal relationships
What it offers: 
10-minute meditation lessons catering to different areas of life: health, performance, and relationships.

BREATH2RELAX

Cost: Free (iOS & Android)
Helps: 
Anxiety, anger, mood instability
What it offers: 
Developed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, it guides you through diaphragmatic breathing (or “belly breathing”), allows you to record your own stress level, and information about stress.

POSITIVE ACTIVITY JACKPOT

Cost: Free (Android only)
Helps: 
Depression
What it offers: 
Developed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, it draws on a therapeutic method called Pleasant Event Scheduling (PES). The app suggests activities based on location and interests, allows users to invite friends, saves favorite spots and activities for future use — and if you can’t choose, you get to “pull the lever” and see what the app sends you.

RECOVERY RECORD

Cost: Free (iOS & Android)
Helps:
 Eating disorders
What it offers: 
Highest-rated app for eating disorder recovery. It allows users to keep a food and feeling journal; create customizable meal plans, coping tactics, and goals.

RELAX MELODIES

Cost: Free (iOS & Android)
Helps: 
Insomnia, stress
What it offers: 
A bank of over 50 sounds and tunes that each user is allowed to mix and customize to their preference, as well as access to the Relax Melodies blog for lifestyle tips on sleeping

I CAN BE FREE

Costs: Free for first session, $2.99 per additional recordings (iOS & Android)
Helps: Anxiety, phobias, insomnia, low self-esteem
What it offers: Over 50 audio hypnosis sessions, targeting different fears (everything from flying, to dying, to public speaking, to bugs or ghosts) and personal hurdles (like quitting smoking or gaining confidence).

MINDSHIFT

Costs: Free (iOS & Android)
Helps: 
Anxiety, teen- and young-adult-specific
What it offers: 
This teen-targeted app offers strategies for facing anxieties related to socializing and school, with journaling tools, positive thinking exercises, symptom trackers, and relaxation tips.

CALM

Costs: Free (iOS & Android, also on line at calm.com)
Helps: 
Anxiety, sleep
What it offers: 
This app allows you to set a timer for a period of guided relaxation.  You choose how long and what you want to hear and see during the meditation.  It also includes “sleep stories” to help you fall asleep more quickly.

SAM:  Self Help for Anxiety Management

Costs: Free (iOS & Android)
Helps: 
Anxiety, stress
What it offers: 
Record your anxiety levels and identify different triggers.  There are 25 self-help options to help users cope with physical and mental symptoms of anxiety.  Users can create a personalized anxiety toolkit.

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