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November 3, 2009

Managing Stress

Ah, today is the first day of my semester break. I have six whole days to stop twitching before the push is on again. And this was a particularly challenging final exam period because we had so many finals in such a short period of time. I must say that I'm proud of how I handled some of the more stressful aspects of this final exam season, remaining calm and collected during practicals. One thing I learned -- I don't like to be rushed.

Stress is present in all our lives, but certain situations really bring it out of us. When I started graduate school, student health came to speak to us and handed out information about how to handle stress. Apparently, academic stress is common. But at what point do we discern between stress responses that are normal to a given situation and stress that becomes pathological? Persistence of exaggerated emotion over a period of time (usually a couple of weeks up to six months or a year) that interrupts daily living and coping is considered a problem that requires outside intervention.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), anxiety falls into 5 basic categories:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: consists of intrusive thoughts (obsessions) combined with repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

Panic disorder: recurring episodes of intense physical fear, without an obvious or immediate source of fear. Anxiety attacks: may manifest with heart palpitations, chest pains, difficulty breathing, or choking.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): follows a severe traumatic event that threatens actual harm.

Social anxiety disorder: overwhelming anxiety when faced with everyday social interactions.

Generalized anxiety disorder: a catchall category that describes any chronic anxiety or exaggerated worry that lacks an obvious cause.

According to Experience Life magazine, if you have stress, there are ways to manage it without having to take prescription medication. Food also plays an important role in managing stress and they have a great article titled "Comfort Food." Of course, if your stress doesn't seem like the run-of-the-mill type and you find it disrupting your life, don't hesitate to contact your doctor -- there is help out there.

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Posted by linda at November 3, 2009 8:37 AM

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