Argosy University Blog

Stress: A Three Part Series: Part 2 | How to Cope with Stress

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Last post, I discussed stress and the toll it can take on the mind and body. But now that I know what stress is doing to me, how do I stop stressing and stressing over stressing? This week, I will talk about ways to help deal with stress. I will give you four ideas to help you get back to your equilibrium.

1. Deep Breaths

When we are stressed out, feeling anxious, we often do not breathe properly, so that our body is getting the oxygen it needs. This can lead to our muscles getting tighter and out bodies and minds getting tired more easily. We need to be able to breathe purposefully, in order to feel more relaxed. There are numerous ways to accomplish this, but here are two relaxation techniques to start you off:

Mindful breathing : In your head, start to count one through ten. As you start your count, breathe in as you count one through five. As you count six through ten, slowly breathe out. When you are doing this, try to focus only on the numbers and your breath. If your focus goes somewhere else, especially on your stress, just refocus yourself. At first it might seem as though you are spending your whole time refocusing, but after a while, you will find this breathing exercise easier.

Breathing visualization : Imagine that your breath is visible. Make if your favorite color or smoky, something that you can see. Now, imagine the path that it takes through your body. Take a deep breath in through your nose, imagine that breath go down your windpipe, filling and expanding your lungs, moving down to your diaphragm. As you do this, you should be able to feel your stomach area expanding. Then the breath moves out of your diaphragm, back into your lungs, up your windpipe, and out of your mouth, slowly, like you are breathing on soup, squeezing every bit of air out. Do this several times. Breathing from your diaphragm is very important to breathing properly.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation

As stated before, stress can lead to feeling tense all of the time. To help to become less stressed, we need our body to feel less stressed, which means we need to relax our muscles. To accomplish this, we can do something called progressive muscle relaxation. For this exercise, start at your toes, tense them up as tight as you can get them, hold it for 5 seconds and release. If you are a visual person, you can imagine the stress wafting away as you release your tensed muscles. Then move your way up your body, trying to get every muscle group you have, even scrunching up those face muscles. By the end, you should feel less tense.

3. Exercise

Exercise is important to keep our bodies and minds strong. Exercise can also be a great way to work out stress. Getting rid of some excess energy could help improve sleep, which in turn helps with stress symptoms. Also, exercise releases endorphins, which make us feel better and can elevate our mood. In addition, you are most likely putting your focus on your body, the activity, or maybe music, which gives you some relief from stressful thought. Further, stretching out your muscles can help to feel less tense.

4. Journaling to Reduce Stress

There is something cathartic about the process of writing things down. Through our writing we can be completely free and unfiltered. Our writing is a place where we can express ourselves. Journaling doesn’t even mean you have to write a narrative. It can be done through art, poems, or bullet points. There are no right ways to journal. What this process does, though, is to take all of the thoughts that are in our head and put them on paper, in whatever manner you choose. Now, those thoughts do not have to occupy your mind, they have a place. Some people like to destroy what they write, and they feel as though it is symbolic for them to help let things go. Although, others find a stress and health journal is a place that can keep their ideas, and if they want to come back to them if they want, but they do not need to carry their thoughts with them all of the time.

These ideas are a great starting place for managing your stress. If you feel as though you are not able to deal with stress alone, counseling can be another option. Feeling heard and understood, finding coping skills for stress that work for you, are all important takeaways from a counseling session. Never feel as though you need to go through stress alone.

In a few weeks, I will write my final blog in my stress series. This blog will discuss how we get to a place to prevent stress. Stressful events will always happen, but how we handle the situations is one way we can take control.


Written by Cara Metz, Ed.D., LPC

Interim Chair Counseling Programs, Forensic Psychology and I/O Psychology Programs

Argosy University, Denver

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Getting to Know You: Your Online Student Advisor

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Students beginning their studies at an on-ground campus typically attend an orientation session that gives them an overview of the classrooms, living areas, and dining areas they’ll be using for the next two to four years. But online students’ classrooms, living areas, and dining areas are often one in the same—so do they also have an orientation prior to staring school? The short answer is—yes.

At Argosy University, Online Programs, each student is assigned an online student advisor who walks them through what they can expect during their studies. There’s an online student orientation process that includes a briefing, a training session on any tools you may be using in class, and a tour of the online classroom and main student hub.

Melissa Mckinney, a current student at Argosy University, Online Programs says that her advisor was critical to her continued academic success. “[My advisor] is familiar [with my situation] and can relate to almost every issue I throw her way. And I know other students that feel the same about their Argosy [support] team.” Mckinney is currently working toward a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology at Argosy University, Online Programs. She also holds two additional degrees from the school. In 2014, she earned an Associate of Science in Business Administration and in 2016, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology .

Our online students work closely with their advisors throughout their time in school—even after orientation is complete. Students can count on their online college advisor to provide assistance and insight, from orientation through graduation. The goal is to help students to succeed—and for advisors to be an important link between our online students and our school.


See auprograms.info for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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Medical Student Syndrome: The Danger of Self Diagnosing an Anxiety Disorder

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It is not unusual for someone who learned something about a disorder to begin looking at how one might fit the diagnostic criteria. The ‘medical student syndrome’ (where the medical student imagines he or she has every disease studied about) can affect us all. We can become overly burdened with the thoughts of having a psychological disorder. It is important to keep in mind that each mental disorder in the current diagnostic manual requires a precise number of symptoms, over a certain period of time, and under a certain intensity in order to be diagnosed by a trained professional. With this said, we all will possess a symptom or two for nearly all of the recognized disorders. This experiencing a couple of symptoms does not automatically result in a diagnosis for anyone.

Let’s look at anxiety as an example. We all experience anxiety throughout our lifetimes. Anxiety happens to be a helpful, naturally occurring human emotion. Anxiety is a genetically engrained mechanism that the entire animal kingdom utilizes to not only avoid danger, but also pursue life-sustaining activities. There is a normal level of anxiety that we all should experience when faced with life’s stressors. Anxiety is typically a stress response, and helps us take the necessary steps to accomplish the needs of each particular stressor. The proper response may be to run away from or run toward a particular stimulus. The proper response may be to speed up one’s reaction or slow down to think more clearly. Each of life’s important tasks requires a certain amount of anxiety to properly respond to it.

For some of us, our anxious reaction may be more than the situation requires for resolution. This would be considered an overreaction. This too is a common occurrence for many individuals under certain specific immediate life stressors. The occasional ‘overreaction’ still does not constitute the need for an anxiety disorder diagnosis.

There are some of us who perpetually feel a sense of being anxious. The common expression of these anxiety symptoms are reported as a combination of the following:

  • always feeling tightly wound up,
  • always on edge,
  • constant knee jerk reactions to most circumstances,
  • inability to fall asleep or get a good night’s sleep,
  • feeling stressed upon waking in the morning
  • overreacting to most of life’s circumstances

As you can read into the above mentioned symptoms of anxiety, it is the persistence of the feelings that can be of concern. If you experience these feelings persistently, then visiting with a mental health professional may be a good idea. You still may or may not have an anxiety disorder. If your life experiences are more alike what was mentioned in the first three paragraphs, then it may be that you are simply responding to life’s stressors from within the tolerable threshold of anxiety.

Written by Michael J. Maxwell, Ph.D., LPC-S, NCC, CSC | Associate Professor at Argosy University, Dallas

                                                                                 

The information and opinions expressed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of the author, and do not represent the opinions and ideas of Argosy University.

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