Stress Management

WCU Students report stress is the number one thing that interferes with school and grades. (ACHA 2013)

What is stress? Stress is your reaction to change and the demands of your life. Each person interprets stress differently. The physical signs of stress you experience are your body's Fight or Flight response.

While putting those last minute touches on your paper, the computer crashes. How do you react? Do you slam the computer shut and yell at your roommate? Do you take a few deep breaths, gather your books, and head to the computer lab? You can't control the unexpected but there are effective ways to manage your stress response.

Is stress good or bad? Stress is both good and bad. Good stress motivates you to get things done. Too much stress can cause you to shut down, snap at friends and family, and over time cause physical issues. Long term stress is linked to headaches, difficulty sleeping, and a weakened immune system.

How do I know if I am stressed? Stress occurs in 3 different ways: physiological, behavioral, and cognitive.

Physical Signs

(changes in your body)

  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Increased heart beat
  • Tightness in chest
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion/vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite/overeating

Behavioral Signs

(actions others can see)

  • Acting impulsively
  • Irritability
  • Losing patience
  • Being careless or forgetful
  • Increased conflict with family and friends

Cognitive Signs

(your thoughts)

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Distracted by worries
  • Self-defeating thoughts
  • Low self-esteem
  • Forgetfulness
  • Excessive worrying

What is your current stress level? Take this quiz to measure your stress level.

Time Management

  • Create a weekly schedule: Break your week up into smaller parts to make it less intimidating. Schedule in time for school work, relaxation, exercise, and time with friends.
      • Weekly Schedule : This worksheet will help you break down your week day by day.
  • Use a "to-do" list: Start your day by creating a to-do list of all the things you want to accomplish. Divide this list up into two categories: Priorities and Can Wait Until Tomorrow. Focus on the priorities and then move to the items that can wait.
  • Cross it off: Keep your to-do list in view and cross off the tasks as you finish them. It is a great feeling to see your list with all of the items crossed off!

Is procrastination your middle name?

Try these tips to beat procrastination:

  • Break large tasks, like research papers & studying for finals, into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  • Work on difficult or unpleasant tasks first. This will get them out of the way.
  • Do your work at the times you work the best. You will get more accomplished with your full attention to the task.
  • Unplug the internet and turn off your cell phone. You will get more work done if you are not taking breaks to check your friends' Facebook status or texting your friends.
  • Set goals to read a specific amount of pages, do a specific number of problems, or write a specific number of pages during your study sessions. When you meet your goal, reward yourself with a much needed break.

Time Management tips from


  • Make time in your schedule to relax each day. Taking a break from your busy schedule will keep you refreshed and focused.
  • Find an activity you enjoy for relaxation. It could be reading for pleasure, taking a walk, spending time outside, or catching up with friends.

Suggested Relaxation Activities

Health Habits



  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night to recharge your body and immune system.
  • Start a schedule for sleeping and waking. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid caffeine and large meals before bed time. Both will give you trouble falling asleep.
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex only.
  • Avoid overstimulating your brain before going to sleep. Read a book in bed instead of watching the TV or surfing the internet.


  • Not only does exercise give you a break from the hard work that you are doing, it also releases endorphins. Endorphins help you feel happy and relaxed.
  • Aim to exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Not into the gym? Try some of these ways to get moving:
      • Jog or walk to South Campus and back
      • Walk to all of your classes instead of taking the bus
      • Get your friends together to play a sport
      • Join an intramural team



On-Campus Stress Management Resources

  • Office of Wellness Promotion
    Commonwealth Hall, Ground Floor
    Stressbuster kit, Stressbusters Events, and Conversations about stress management

Online Stress Management Resources

  • Stress Recess: Stress management and reduction from the University of Texas
  • ULifeline: Anonymous, confidential, online resource center regarding emotional health
  • Half of Us: Help with feeling stressed