Learning to manage stress is an integral part of student life. When exams, class presentations, homework assignments and job searches take up the bulk of your time, high stress and anxiety levels can become the norm.
Physical activity increases the production of endorphins, which in return initiates positive feelings in your mind and body – something many college students could use more of.
Chantelle Russell, University of Oregon associate director of physical education, says the impact physical activity can have on stress is huge. Taking care of your body often comes second to getting everything checked off your to-do list and this habit can take its toll on your overall well-being.
A common reason students don’t exercise is because it’s difficult to find time in their schedule. “When you feel stressed, one of your top priorities needs to be maintaining some regularity to your healthy behaviors with sleep, nutrition and exercise being the key components,” Russell said.
In order to focus and feel good, your body needs to be taken care of. “When it comes to stress reduction it’s important to listen to your body because sometimes getting exercise in can be stressful,” Russell said.
Maybe you can’t get to the gym every single day, but you can incorporate exercise into your everyday life without much disruption. Try going on a walk to clear your head or doing some simple stretches on your bedroom floor. There are many different ways you can get your body moving without taking too much time out of your day.
The social aspect of exercising can also contribute to stress reduction. Even if you’re just meditating in a yoga class, you’re still surrounded by others who are practicing the same mindfulness alongside you. Russell says this can help with stress reduction because you’re all sharing the same experience. Another example of this would be working with a partner while rock climbing or hiking with friends.
When it comes to finding what type of exercise helps you to most effectively reduce stress, Russell believes it’s very individualized. Some days you might just need time to stretch and other days may require something more intense, like a kickboxing or martial arts class with physical contact.
Russell says that one of the best things about UO’s Student Recreation Center is that it offers many different ways to get your body moving. It’s helpful to change up your workout routine rather than doing the same exercises on a regular basis.
“I highly encourage people to get as much experience doing different physical activities so that they can find different options and find out what works for them,” she said.
Russell’s experience in teaching ranges from yoga to CrossFit, and she has seen many students benefit from stress reduction in her P.E. classes. At the end of each term, students complete a class reflection and many of them comment on their lowered stress without being prompted.
Finding the time to exercise should be a top priority, especially if you are feeling stressed. When you make time to take care of your body, you may find that many aspects of your life improve. You will feel more focused, refreshed and balanced, and the impact of exercising is much greater than that of coffee or energy bars.
Russell recommends adding a P.E. class to your schedule to create the time to care for your body. Even with a busy schedule, you always have time for what you prioritize.