Stress | Organization for Autism Research

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Unfortunately, stress is a common emotion that people deal with frequently – many of your friends, family, and even yourself have dealt with it before. You probably dealt with it firsthand with friendships and applying to college – but don’t worry, everyone has been stressed out before.

Stress can manifest itself in different forms, mentally or physically. It can also be a combination of both mental and physical reactions. Mentally, stress can make someone think nonstop, freeze, or feel overwhelmed. Physically, a stressed-out person can get sweaty, and have an increased heartrate or breath. When you are stressed, you should notice if you have any symptoms. Below is an example of stress manifesting itself physically and emotionally.

Susie got an A on her last test, so her dad let her drive his new car all day as a reward. Susie was driving on the highway when she realized she was in rush-hour traffic. She was driving slowly and carefully, but noticed an angry driver behind her. This stranger was driving his car super close to Susie, who grew worried about getting into an accident. Tons of thoughts piled into Susie’s head, and she couldn’t focus on one thought because she had so much going on! Furthermore, the cars honking around her over-stimulated her senses, and she could feel herself stimming, getting sweaty, and breathing super-fast.

The aforementioned example is a common instance of stress that many drivers feel daily. Even though it is a common occurrence for drivers, it is essential to listen to your body and to decide if you can handle the stress in that situation or if you must leave the situation.

When Susie started crying while driving, she realized that she needed to leave the situation. She put on her blinker and got off of the high way as quickly and as safely as possible. Then she began to deal with her stress.

Susie did the right thing by leaving the situation – staying in the car on the high way would have stressed her out even more and could have possibly led to negative consequences, like holding up traffic, or worse, being part of a car accident. So remember, it is okay to leave a situation if you are stressed!

In Susie’s case, the best way she could deal with stress in that instance was to leave the situation and calm herself down with some deep breathing. Deep breaths, or focusing on your breathing will help you center yourself, making you calmer and relaxed. Breathing exercises are super easy to follow: inhale deeply for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, and then exhale for 5 seconds. You should repeat this breathing technique until you feel the stress fade away.

Another technique to de-stress is to simply drink some water. If available, you should also try to wash your face with cold water. Sometimes the shock of the cold water hitting your face can force you out of the stressful situation, even if it’s just for a little while.

If you are over-stimulated at an event or party, it is best to take a friend and step into the bathroom or outside. A good friend is there to make sure that you are okay, and to get medical attention if needed. Stepping out of the situation is a great and simple way to handle stress because you immediately eliminate the stressor. After you de-stress, you can try to go back inside or back to the event, but you don’t have to! You should make this decision while keeping in mind that your health is the most important factor in the situation, and that it is okay to leave an event if you want to. If your friend wants to stay at the party, they can help you find a safe way home, whether it is helping you walk home, or ordering a car service, like Uber, to transport you back to your room.

Some other tips on de-stressing are having a stress ball that you can squeeze and play with when you are stressed, listening to music/calming noises, or writing down what is stressing you out. Some of these techniques may or may not work for you, so you should test them out to see for yourself. Another great technique that actually helps prevent stress is working out. You should ultimately listen to your doctor, as he/she knows what is best in regards to your physical activity, but the recommended amount to work out is 30-45 minutes 3-5 times per week. You can work out by walking, cycling, swimming, running, etc. Working out prevents your body from building up anger and stress – basically, you just sweat it all out!

Most examples mentioned in this article are short-term solutions to stress. If you find yourself stressed every day, or most days of the week, you should seek professional help. The average person experiences stress a couple of times a week, so if you experience more, there may be an underlying issue, like anxiety, that can magnify stress and make it a bigger deal than necessary. This professional help, like a psychologist or school counselor, can help you find the underlying causes of your stress and can help create strategies to thwart stress before it happens and before it gets worse.

Below are some common examples of stress in different situations and tips to deal with them. Stress can occur anywhere and at any time, so it is a good idea to have several techniques in the back of your mind; it might even help to write some techniques down on a piece of paper or on your phone so you can look back to them when you are stressed and have an idea of how to eliminate the stressor.

Social Stress

Dominic was at a frat party during the first week of school. There were over 50 people crammed into a frat house with tons of loud music and bright lights. At first, Dominic was okay and was actually having fun dancing with his friends, but as more people came in, everyone got closer and the room got hotter. Dominic thought he heard the DJ turn the music up. Drinks were spilled everywhere. The music got too loud and the lights got too bright and the people were too close to him. He started sweating, his heartrate increased, and he was really anxious. Dominic was getting overwhelmed and realized that he needed to leave the situation. He told his friend Ruby that he was feeling stressed out and she suggested they go outside on the sidewalk, away from the loud noise, bright lights, and crowds of people. There, Ruby got Dominic a bottle of water to drink, and he focused on relaxing and de-stressing by breathing slowly and counting his breaths. He breathed in for 5 seconds, held his breath for another couple of seconds, and then exhaled for 5 seconds. After he was okay, both he and Ruby decided to not return to the party and to grab some food instead.

Dominic was lucky to have a friend that was willing to leave the party and help. However, even if you don’t have a friend at a party, you can do Ruby’s actions yourself! If you are stressed out in a crowded situation, it is best to re-group by exiting the situation, taking a couple of deep breaths, and sipping some water. These tips can help calm you down in any situation. In some instances, you might feel ready to go back into the situation and try again. It’s even okay to leave a party to go outside every 15 minutes to take a breather and relax! Your comfort is the most important thing, so it is essential that you take life at your own pace.

Jordyn came home from a really hard exam; when she entered her room, she forgot that she gave Elise, her roommate, permission to have some friends over to watch some TV and make dinner. Jordyn was already in a really bad mood because of her exam. Jordyn tried going in her room to get some peace and to focus on her breathing, but the TV was too loud and there were too many people talking. Jordyn felt pent up and like she couldn’t control anything – she felt as if she was losing it. Luckily, the previous week, Jordyn made a list of things to do when she is stressed, so she read the list and tried to find a solution that aligned perfectly with this situation. She realized that she needed some time alone and decided to go on a run. She changed, and told Elise that she was stressed out and would return in an hour because she was going on a run. When Jordyn returned, Elise and her friends were still there, but Jordyn was feeling a lot better! She took a shower and joined them for dinner and TV.

Although Jordyn consented to Elise having friends over, she was stressed out from a previous situation that carried over to her current situation in her room. Elise did the right thing by leaving the room so she could find a place to be alone. Unless you have your own room, it is often hard to find a quiet space when you share a room with one or more people. In Jordyn’s case, taking a run was the smartest decision since it was the only place where she could be alone and de-stress. However, if you find yourself in Jordyn’s situation and do not want to go outside, it is okay to ask your roommate and their friends to be a little quieter and to turn the TV down. If you are too stressed and are about to have a melt-down (which is totally okay and natural to have), it is okay to ask your roommate and their friends to step outside for 15-30 minutes while you cry and let out the stress.

Academic Stress

Sophia found a quiet spot to study in the library. Nobody was distracting her, but as the hours went by, she found herself not being productive and instead getting more stressed out at the sheer amount of work she had. After three hours of working, she realized she hadn’t progressed in her work at all and started to freak out. Her palms got sweaty and she began to fidget a lot. She felt the stress build up, almost like it was a volcano rumbling within her.  She packed up her bag and went outside to call her mom; while talking with her mom, Sophia explained that she was stressed and couldn’t do any work. Sophia’s mom told her to take a break and take a walk outside.

In this example, Sophia called someone she trusted and explained her emotions. Her mom’s suggestion of taking a break and a walk was smart because Sophia could stay outside and relax for a bit before returning to work, and hopefully be more productive. Taking a break and leaving the situation, even for 30 minutes, can dramatically alter your mood: it can help you relax and refocus on what is most important.

Maurice entered his first and hardest class of the year: freshman chemistry. There were over 150 people in the auditorium, and he could only grab a seat in the back. Maurice was already stressed because he knew that he couldn’t sit in the back of the room – he would get too distracted by everyone else. Maurice found the teacher’s assistant, and asked if she knew of any other seats closer to the front. She managed to find an aisle seat three rows back from the professor!

In Maurice’s instance, he knew that he would get stressed out so he tried to prevent that stress from occurring by changing the situation. Although he would ideally be sitting in the front row, this new seat was significantly better than the back of the room. Maurice took matters into his own hands by asking an authority figure to help him. Even though stress can pop up un-expectantly, there are instances where you can foresee these situations. In those cases, you should look to change and alter the situation. No one likes being stressed, and a simple measure (like asking someone for help to find a seat) may seem like a lot to ask, but it will only take five seconds of another person’s time and isn’t that much of a bother!

Although these are not the only ways to de-stress, they are great tips that will most likely help you in a stressful situation. Focusing on your breathing, drinking some water, or even going outside for a walk are great solutions to stressful problems. You can also set up a therapy appointment through your school or with a professional outside of your school to talk through your stress, and they can help you create individualized plans for dealing with situations like these. Just remember that stress isn’t forever – in fact, it will most likely go away within a couple of hours. Sometimes people tend to imagine that situations are worse than they actually are, so it’s helpful to have a friend or family member help put your stress in perspective. For example, if you are stressed because of an exam, you can call a trusted person and vent, or tell them what is stressing you out. They can help calm you down, offer some solutions, or simply listen to what you have to say to make you feel better! Just make sure whoever you vent to should be someone you really trust, because stress is often personal.

Overall, there are many techniques to help eliminate stressors. You can use these, and you can also google ‘how to deal with stress’ – google will have great suggestions for you to try. Again, it is always smart to have several techniques written down so you can try them all, since one technique won’t work in every situation. You can also use multiple techniques, like the people in the examples did, to cope with stress. Stress is usually temporary, but if you find yourself stressed out every single day, you should talk to a professional because it may be a bigger issue.


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