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Stress Management Tips

Dr. Zinatelli’s Student Stress Management Tips

© 2000 Dr. Marna Zinatelli, Psychologist

  1. Pay attention to the way you think – When you are stressed, try to look at the thoughts you are having.  Also consider the people in your life and the thoughts they have about the problems in their lives?  This little experiment will likely give you many examples of how negative thought patterns can make you feel stressed and how constructive problem solving can make you feel more relaxed.  Unfortunately, it may not be so easy to simply start “thinking positively”.  Some people are lucky enough to learn positive thinking skills while growing up.  Others have to decide to find ways to learn these skills.
  2. Decide what’s important – People often say they feel stressed because they don’t have enough time.  This is interesting because these same people often say that they waste a lot of time.  It’s important to look at what it is you don’t have enough time to do and what it is that you are wasting your time on.  Talking on the phone with a friend can be a good use of time or a waste of time, depending on what’s important to you.  Many people say that certain things like school and fitness are important and that computer games and television are not.  These same people often find themselves spending more time on the things they say are unimportant than the things they say are important.  Often, they are not aware of this until they monitor their time use.  If you make a list of the things that are important and those that aren’t, you can then compare this to the way you spend your time.  Then you can decide if you need to make any changes to the way you spend your time.
  3. Set reasonable goals – One sure way to get stressed is to expect yourself to do the impossible.  Many students expect themselves to do more than is humanly possible and then get very stressed when they see that these goals can’t be met.  One strategy for setting reasonable goals is to aim for the best you can do and then keep track of what you were able to accomplish.  You can then work to improve from this starting point.  For example, rather that set a goal of 25 hours of studying each week, you can start with a goal of doing the best you can.  You can then track your study hours during the week and if your best is 15 hours, you can then aim for 17 the following week.
  4. Protect your mind – Even the most positive thinkers who know what’s important and who set reasonable goals are challenged by others who bombard them with negativity.  Some people spend so much time thinking and saying negative things that others can’t help but be affected.  Some people will not respect your choices about what is important to you and some will try to work against your efforts to set reasonable goals.  It is extremely important to be aware of this negativity, and to seek support from positive thinkers.
  5. Protect your body – Many students find that stress shows itself in their bodies.  Each of us has physical vulnerabilities that are expressed when we get stressed.  Some people suffer from headaches.  Others have trouble sleeping.  There is a very wide range of physical problems that are influenced by stress.  Regular fitness protects you from this and also protects your mind.  It releases tension and generates biochemicals  that protect you from depression.  If mood, sleep and appetite problems persist, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help from a counsellor and/or doctor.
  6. Give and get support -Develop a network of “responsibles”.  These are people who think in positive and constructive ways.  They are reliable, open and trustworthy.  They are happy to help and support others and they will ask for support when they need it.  Being part of such a network is very important for long-term stress management.  You probably already know some “responsibles”.  Foster these relationships.
  7. Build on what works – Few people have absolutely no stress management skills.  You are probably doing quite a lot to help yourself manage stress.  You may even surprise yourself at times and cope very well under very difficult circumstances.  Pay attention to what helps and try to do more.  You can also learn by watching others.  Who are the best stress managers in your life.  How do they do it?  See what you can learn from them.
  8. Become a stress management expert – There is a lot of information about stress management that is very easily available in books, on the internet and from professionals.  As the pace of life quickens, these skills become more and more important.  It will be worth your while to invest some time to develop these skills.
  9. Be proactive – Avoid ignoring problems.  Problems rarely “go away” without attention and work and usually grow unless action is taken.  Although it can be tempting to “let things slide” it’s best to face problems as soon as possible.  If you find that you can’t resolve a problem on your own, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  10. Simplify your life – We can add a lot of unnecessary stress to our lives by making life choices that take time and energy that we can’t afford.  Life also presents us with unexpected challenges that require us to let go of other things until these challenges are resolved.  Flexibility may be one of the most effective defenses against stress.  This means working to keep things simple and only adding complications when you feel you have achieved some level of proactivity in your life.  This also means being willing to let go of things and change your lifestyle if something major comes along that requires your time and energy.


Dr. Marna Zinatelli is a psychologist practicing in Ottawa, Canada. You are invited to visit her web page at