Stockbridge, Ga. (August 7, 2014) – Many college students are heading back to school over the next couple of weeks where pulling all-nighters and stressing over exams seems to be a normal occurrence in their lives. However, if this behavior is repeated, it can take a toll on their heart health.
About to begin her senior year in college, Chelsea Braddy found herself in this position when she had rapid heart rate, a tight chest and was out of breath. She went to see cardiologist Dr. Muthusamy Sekar, a physician on staff at Piedmont Henry Hospital, who informed her that stress and lack of a consistent sleep routine could be the cause of her issues.
“He told me I need to exercise more and lay off the caffeine, especially coffee and energy drinks,” says Braddy. “I also need to be on a better routine by waking up and going to bed at a consistent time every day.”
Braddy notes that when she returns to school in the fall, she will try to exercise on a regular basis in order to get in shape and relieve stress. Her recommendation to students starting college is to stay on top of assignments by doing them in a timely manner. Procrastination leads to stress.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80 percent of college students say that they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress. The American Institute of Stress notes that there are many effects of a stressful life including heart attack, hypertension, stroke and anxiety.
“Dr. Sekar was great because he didn’t make me feel bad for struggling with this,” says Braddy. “I knew that if I just did the things he was telling me to do, I would be okay.”
College students like Braddy can live healthier and happier lives by following suggested sleep guidelines as well as learning to better cope with stress.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each night for persons over the age of 18.
While exercise and a healthy diet are keys to stress management and good overall health, there are several mind-body techniques that can help reduce stress. Jasmin Theard, ACSM HFS, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Healthcare, recommends these simple tips for times when feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
1. Practice gratitude: Start each day by reflecting on the things for which you are grateful.
2. Set reasonable goals. Let go of an “all-or-nothing” attitude, whether you are at the office or the gym. Set manageable goals so you aren’t overwhelmed.
3. Get away from it all. Take a weekend getaway – preferably somewhere you’ll have limited access to technology. If you can’t get out of town, you can reap similar benefits with a technology break each day by turning off your smartphone and laptop for at least an hour each night.
4. Be mindful of your attitude. A lot of stress management has to do with your attitude and perspective. Look at any progress, no matter how small, and celebrate the progress as victories.