The Wellness Resource Center

Healthy Living

Stress Management

Healthy Living > Stress

VCU Students report Stress as the #1 issue affecting their academic performance.

The Well's health survey, Spring 2016, n=856

Having difficulty coping with stressors in your life? Drop by The Well (815 South Cathedral Place) for Mindful Mondays or Thoughtful Thursdays at noon for our brief meditations to learn and practice relaxation and stress/anxiety management.  All students are welcome. 

We all experience stress in our lives. Often, stress can be a good thing. It is our body's way of giving us the energy and resources we need to get through an event (like a test or a new experience). It can be difficult just balancing all of the responsibilities of being a student, not to mention the various stressors we each encounter on a daily basis.

Our bodies are programmed to confront a stressor and then recover back to our "baseline-" our own "normal" level of functioning. Stress becomes negative when it is prolonged and we have no tools in place to help us respond to the stress and recover after the stressful event has passed.

The longer we experience stress without periods of rest and relaxation in between, the more likely we are to develop complications as a result. Prolonged (or chronic) stress can lead to a variety of health and mental health related concerns like insomnia, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system or even heart disease, obesity, and depression (, 

We know that stress can be harmful, but check out this TED Talk about "How to Make Stress Your Friend."

We each experience stress differently. So, the techniques we choose to manage stress need to be individual based on our lifestyles, emotional needs, support systems, and the types of stressors we are experiencing. If you are experiencing stress, you are not alone. 

Check out how one person on the internet is finding which technique works best for them. What's your strategy? Don't forget to follow our social media for more information on finding your stress management strategy!

Some stress starts in our brains! Automatic Negaitve Thoughts- what we fondly refer to as ANTS- can lead us down a spiral of negative thinking that makes whatever is stressing us seem impossible to overcome.

Some stressors are external and out of our control. They are things that happen to us whether we want them to or not. Losing a loved one, major life changes, or how someone treats us can all be external stressors. For stressors that are beyond your control, using an emotionally-focused strategy to manage your own response to the stressor can help. 


(University Student Health Services Fact Sheet, 2015)


There is no separation between the mind and the body. How we feel physically is a reflection of what is happening in our lives. Whether they seem stressful or not, changes in college can cause an internal rearrangement of our biochemistry, resulting in the development of physical symptoms.


Common stress symptoms include: fatigue, excessive sleeping, insomnia, headache, jaw pain, heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, muscle pain, heart palpitations, and chest pain. These symptoms are not “imaginary” or “just in people’s heads” because they are related to stress. Stress is a real phenomenon that can result in real physical changes. Based on individual genetics, each person will manifest different stress symptoms. Listen to your body, and discover what patterns indicate stress in you. Then take steps to learn the skills to become more stress resilient and/or make choices to reduce excess stress in your life.


You learn many “skills” when you come to college. One skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life is how to make stress work for you. The “LEARNS” outline below will help you evaluate and make changes in your life where necessary in order to decrease stress symptoms.




How’s your laugh life? Laughter is one of the best coping mechanisms. A good laugh uses up many stress chemicals and relaxes the body. Children laugh 300 to 500 times a day. The average adult laughs only 30 times a day. Humor is a skill that can be learned, and it is one of the keys to a healthy life. Humor is an attitude that allows you to take your work seriously, but yourself lightly. Consciously look for movies, books, and people that can add laughter to your life.


Exercise is one of the best ways to become more stress resilient. Exercise increases your clearance of stress chemicals, and it improves your mental and physical performance. Many students mistakenly believe that they don’t have time to exercise. You don’t have time not to exercise! Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise three to five times a week will give you more energy and improve your concentration. It can give you the boost to study more efficiently. Check out exercise facilities & programs available to students on the Monroe Park and MCV campuses at Rec Sports.


Our attitude is one of the most powerful shapers of our destinies. The thoughts or mental tapes we play in our heads either increase or decrease our ability to function effectively. Attitude can give you power or take it away. You can learn skills to reshape your thoughts, attitudes and learning skills.


Take some time each day to clear your mind and to get perspective on what’s important in the universe. Some experts call this “islands of peace.” By taking this time to deep breathe, relax, and meditate, we become more grounded and peaceful. Things get back into perspective, and we can function in a more focused and efficient way.


Fuel your body with healthy food to meet the demands of an active college lifestyle. If you are stressed out, your body is working harder and needs nutrient-dense foods.  Try to eat balanced meals with lean protein, whole grain carbs, fruits, and vegetables. For more information and free personalized consultations, call Student Health at 804-828-8828 to schedule an appointment with the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.


Substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs change you both physically and mentally. If you are concerned that yours or a friend's use is impacting your life, you can make an appointment to talk with someone at The Well by emailing

Sleep is not optional! Most people require 7 to 9 hours per night. Uninterrupted sleep is necessary for rejuvenating both the brain and body. Sleep deprivation can lead to variety of physical symptoms, including poor concentration. Don’t try to cheat sleep. It will only cost more time in the long run. Drop by the Well for a pair of free ear plugs to help you sleep. 

VCU University Counseling Services offers a variety of services for students who need some help managing stress and anxiety. Check out their online self-help section for more information about stress, anxiety, depression, and more.  

Visit UCS on either campus to schedule an appointment today!

Monroe Park Campus
University Student Commons, Room 238
907 Floyd Ave.
(804) 828-6200
Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

MCV Campus
VMI Building, Room 412
1000 E. Marshall St.
(804) 828-3964
Wednesday: 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

*If you or someone you know is experiencing an After Hours Emergency you would like to get in contact with someone from UCS, please call VCU Police dispatcher at (804) 828-1234 and ask to speak to a therapist.

The Well provides consultations for stress and anxiety management. We also offer weekly drop-in mindfulness sessions at The Well every Monday and Thursday at noon while classes are in session. Interested? Email The Well for more information. Educational programs are also available by request for student groups and classes about stress and anxiety management or mindfulness. Don't forget to follow our social media for all things health- including additional tips and information on stress and anxiety management.