When most people think of physical wellness, they tend to think about exercise and diet. While they are important, your physical well-being is affected by other factors. Preventive checkups, getting enough sleep, and stress management all play a big part in how your body feels.

So, what is stress?
Stress is a state of mental or emotional tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress is actually a normal and necessary part of life. It is needed for learning, creativity, and, most importantly, survival. However, too much stress or prolonged periods of stress interrupt your body’s healthy equilibrium. Over time, too much or mismanaged stress can weaken your immune system, cause depressed feelings, increase your susceptibility to chronic illnesses, and even trigger changes in your brain.

No one is immune to stress and everyone reacts differently to strain. In fact, Illinois State University students, faculty, and staff report stress as one of their top health issues. Below are some tips and resources to help you maintain balance in a crazy world.

Take a deep breath
Stress often causes us to take shallow breaths, which leads to more anxiety. When you start feeling tense, take a moment and breathe. Close your eyes and count to 100, starting over if you need a longer pause. Download the guided relaxation audio available on the Health Promotion and Wellness website.

Manage your time
A huge source of stress is overcommitment or poor time management. Plan ahead and leave some flexibility in your schedule to help accommodate things that inevitably come up. Make to do lists and keep a calendar to help remind you of important events and deadlines. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to say no.

Focus on the positive
It is easy to emphasize the negative in a situation when you are stressed. Take a time out and make a list all of the good things in your life. Keep the list in your phone, purse, school bag, or somewhere else accessible so that you can read through it whenever you need a happy reminder.

Take care of your body
When busy or stressed, we often forget to take care of ourselves. But a healthy body handles stress better. Getting regular physical activity, eating well, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep are key to helping you handle stress better. Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may seem like a temporary fix to feel better, but in the long run they can create more problems and add to your stress.

Connect with others
During and after stressful events, it’s easy to isolate yourself from others. Talk with a trusted friend or a professional. Talking and connecting with people often help you work through your thoughts and feelings as well as take your mind of whatever is bothering you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a trained counseling professional. Students can make an appointment with Student Counseling Services by calling (309) 438-3655. Help for faculty and staff is available through the Employee Assistance Program by calling (866) 659-3848.

Reduce stress with Practice of Positive Living course
This spring, Health Promotion and Wellness will hold an eight-week course to help participants learn how to find and maintain balance in their daily lives. Practice of Positive Living uses stress-reduction techniques such as support, meditation, breathing practices, self-discussion, exercise and nutrition, and journaling as resources to help you manage stress. Separate classes are available for faculty/staff and students. Faculty/staff sessions are every Tuesday beginning March 18, and student sessions are every Thursday beginning March 20. Classes are held in 159 McCormick Hall from noon to 1 p.m. Classes are free, but registration is required.

Who: students and faculty/staff
When: faculty/staff only classes are every Tuesday beginning March 18 from noon to 1 p.m. and student only classes are every Thursday beginning March 20 from noon to 1 p.m.
Where: 159 McCormick Hall
Cost: Classes are free, but registration is required.

Additional campus resources
Campus Recreation
Student Counseling Services
Employee Assistance Program
SEVEN: Discover wellness at Illinois State program
Yoga at your Desk
Lifestyle Enhancement Program
Julia N. Visor Academic Center