In the modern world, stress is something that is almost avoidable. Kristen Butler, 23, graduated from Mississippi State University in 2017 with a major in educational psychology and a goal of helping others.
“Ever since I was young, I have always had a passion for helping people who were unable to help themselves,” Butler said. “When I got to college, I enrolled in classes that went on to further build my interest about psychology. They were fascinating and very informative.”
After graduating from Mississippi State, Kristen pursued her master’s degree. “I decided on Ole Miss over State and LSU due to the quality of the program and the short amount of time it would take to complete my master’s degree,” she said.
Kristen is now partnering with a facility in Oxford to counsel people of all ages. A common theme she has noticed is how many people, no matter how young or old, deal with stress.
“You see these people every day on the street, and they seem very happy with life,” she said. “Next thing you know, they’re entering the building in tears. Stress is an every day thing, and it certainly takes a toll on you mentally and physically.”
Butler education can cause stress. “The transition from either high school to junior college, or even junior college to a university, is by far stressful. The amount of work and focus it takes is next level. Some students just aren’t ready for it.”
For adults, stress can be caused by many things. “Couples can feel physical stress through a pregnancy, for example,” she said. “It takes a toll on the body for sure. Even when the baby is born, the body is still fighting irregular things, which leads to a potentially deadly sickness.”
The National Institute of Mental Health, a Maryland-based federal agency for research on mental disorders, such as stress, is directed by Dr. Joshua Gordon. He works to improve treatment, prevention, recovery and cures.
“The effects of stress build up over time,” Gordon said. “After a while, all the negatives hit you at once, mentally causing you to break down first. If one does not keep it under control, it will show on the physical body as well. Lack of sleep, loss of focus and absence are just a few examples.”
Gordon and his team have developed simple ways to combat stress so one can be happy and live a better life mentally and physically. “It is first important to be able to tell the signs of stress on the body,” he said. “Low energy, sudden use of drugs or alcohol, and difficulty sleeping are usually the beginning stages of stress.”
Exercise is one way of combating it. “For many people who ask me, I always let them know to attempt to exercise regularly,” he said. “At least 30 minutes a day walking – as simple and easy as that is, it can boost your overall mood, which will cause reduced stress.”
Gordon said joining a stress coping program or class is vital to overcoming it. “It gives you the ability to chat with others who struggle like you with stress while engaging in physically relaxing movements,” he said. “Meditation, yoga or tai chi are a few gentle exercises that not only calm the physical body, but relax the mind as well.”
Gordon said to set goals and priorities for oneself and stay connected with other individuals to reduce stress.
“Decide what to get done and what can wait,” Gordon said. “Also, learn to say no to tasks that can put you at an overload. At the end of the day, take note of what you were able to do and what one wasn’t able to do. And when involving others in your life, always seek emotional support from them. Ask for help from friends and family. Even a religious community can offer support and keep you on the right track to beating stress.”