Psychology professor offers tips for relieving mid-term stress

By Alana Hu
Staff Writer

In the middle of the semester, students often feel overwhelmed by mid-terms and impending final exams.

To help with the anxiety, David Vickery, professor of psychology and founder and director of Positive Psychology Group in Jackson, offers stress relief tips.

First recognize stress and its mental, social and physical symptoms. They vary in individuals but can include exhaustion, loss of or increased appetite, headaches, oversleeping, sleeplessness and sometimes overly expressing emotions, he said.

“Stress management also depends on how you perceive it,” Vickery said. “You can control it or let it control you. Either way, it is all in your head.”

One of the simplest ways of managing stress is to avoid unnecessary stressors, by simply saying “no” and respecting personal limits; by avoiding people who add stress; by taking control of the immediate environment; and by prioritizing a to-do list.

“The glass is always half-full and half empty simultaneously,” Vickery said. “We are hardwired to take everything in a negative fashion, which causes us to always be stressed and unhappy.”

The mind has the power to shape a person’s brain, and when a person looks for the good in life, his mindset is changed, which has the power to reshape his mind and wire it to filter out stress.

This method allows people to see the good in life rather than focusing on the negatives, he said.

Vickery explained that stress can result from anything that poses a challenge or a threat to a person’s well-being.

While some stressors are considered “good” because they give a person drive, some are considered bad because they undermine mental and physical health.

When a person is under pressure, Vickery said, the body can react, resulting in headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pains and trouble sleeping.

Stress forms when certain chemicals are released in the body, Vickery said, adding that stress is not created until this chemical is released.

He went on to explain that the chemicals released cause a person to react with the “fight-or-flight” reaction known as the stress response to situations.

Because the reaction causes a person to focus on how to survive the moment, it robs him of that moment of life, Vickery said, and he is unable to recognize the beauty of life around him.

Vickery confirmed that stress can shave years off of a person’s life. When experiencing stress, the hormone cortisol is released and breaks down proteins. Under stress, the body breaks these proteins down to make energy for survival.

The process also linked to muscular atrophy, which can lead to other physical complications.

Manage your stress
Be able to recognize stress and decide whether you will control it or let the stress control you.
When you feel stressed, take a deep breath in, count to 10 and release. This should help you relax.
Practice a relaxation technique on a daily basis.
Take time out of each day to relax and have time to yourself to clear your mind.
Exercise daily and have a healthy diet.
Get enough sleep each night.
Make a plan of what you need to do and prioritize tasks.
Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

Source — David Vickery, professor of psychology and founder and director of Positive Psychology Group in Jackson

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.