Managing excessive stress


Stress is a normal aspect of daily life; it is not something you can take or leave. How we manage stress is dependent upon how we view stress, whether we view a situation as being stressful, and how we cope with that stress. Stress is how people react to situations that feel taxing. What motivates one person, may burden another. It is important to identify stressors and develop skills in coping with them. Remember, stress is a response to events, both external and self-generated. A moderate amount of stress is good because it fosters creativity, motivation, growth and change. Too much stress can get in the way and become so overwhelming that it can be immobilizing.

Signs of Excessive Stress

  • Forgetfulness
  • Increased procrastination
  • Excessive crying
  • Racing heart, sweaty palms
  • Tense muscles
  • Headaches
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lingering or unidentified illnesses


  • Check out the resources on the CVM wellness and academic success pages
  • Embrace (some) stress. It increases your learning and growth. Rarely does major growth happen without stress.
  • Understand the causes of your anxiety and stress. Awareness is the first step in stress management.
  • Know and accept your limits.
  • “Learn to Live” (UMN sponsored online program)  offers free, 100% confidential online programs for stress, anxiety and worry, depression and social anxiety. Visit and enter the code UMN for free access.
  • “Let it out” – communication is ventilation. A good cry or leaning on someone’s shoulder is OK and healthy.
  • Engage in physical activities regularly to minimize your stress (e.g., running, aerobics, swimming, volleyball).
  • Get organized. Good time management skills are important. Focus on the most important tasks first, not just the easiest. Plan your time. Learn to say “no”. Set realistic goals and follow through.
  • Take time for yourself – it allows you the opportunity to “re-energize” yourself.
  • Seek help. It’s OK to turn to others in resolving your problems. It is not a sign of weakness.
  • Learn to delegate whenever possible.
  • Find people and supports that reinforce and offer stress relief, rest, movement, or joy.
  • If you’re not sure who and what does help, take the first step to identify your stress relievers by paying attention to how you feel over time.
  • Have fun – laughter and humor are the best medicine.
  • Get adequate rest. Replenish your energy and do not get “burned out” so that you can focus, think clearly, and persevere.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. They will decrease your capability to handle stress.
  • Try to eat regular and well balanced meals. Keep healthy snacks available.
  • Engage in quiet time. Spend a few minutes daily to dream, relax, or to ponder on something soothing or that brings a pleasant thought to mind. Maintain “stability zones” and personal rituals. It is important to have meaning in your life.
  • Compliment yourself for a job well done or for handling a difficult situation.
  • Remember, you are not perfect – we all make mistakes. Forgive yourself for your imperfections.
  • Check out the UI online Wellness under Pressure toolkit

People I Can Talk to:

  • Crisis hot line (for yourself or someone else): (612)-301-4673
  • Text “UMN” to 61222
  • Student counseling services: (612) 624-3323
  • Boynton Mental health clinic: (612) 624-1444
  • Behavioral Consultation Team: (612) 626-3030
  • Dr. Erin Malone, 612-625-4762,
  • Dr. Vesna Hampel-Kozar, hampe004@umn,edu, (612) 625-6630
  • Anyone in Academic and Student Affairs
  • GOALe mentor(s)
  • Any faculty you feel you can approach
  • Classmates, family and friends
  • Your physician, student health services and/or your spiritual advisor
  • AVMA Stress Management Resources

Final Thoughts

Attempt to minimize stress whenever possible. You can learn to make situations less stressful through developing effective coping strategies. Remember, the causes of stress are not only generated from external sources, but are also self-generated. You can change your perception of what you view as being stressful.

Stress is always a hot topic in professional school, and, to a great extent, even more so in veterinary school. The best advice I can give is to put yourself first. If you recognize that your stress levels are increasing, fall back to a hobby you have that you can lose yourself in, or even better, let your stress out on. For me, I play video games. Sometimes puzzles, sometimes shooters, sometimes exploration games. I rely heavily on this hobby to help me express and exert what I feel, to get it out of my system. Take the time to take care of yourself, even at the cost of a better grade. You are worth more than a letter grade, and you’ll perform better in the long run if you accept that and make yourself the priority.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

Veterinary school and stress go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, this is a reality and it is something I strongly pondered prior to submitting my letter of intention in coming to veterinary school. To deal with this burden that can often become drowning and downright depressive, you must maintain your self-confidence, relationships and habits formed prior to your entry into veterinary school. The curriculum is challenging, and it may require you to alter how you fulfill your mental stamina, but do not lose sight of who you are and who you want to be. Don’t let relationships with your family or friends fall away, because those are the people that will help you get through stressful times. Don’t get too overcommitted, but don’t also be complacent. To deal with stress, I have maintained physical activity through weekly yoga and gym exercises, and I have taken breaks from school work to contact family members and friends (yes, via phone!). Veterinary school is a dream for a lot, and a reality for a few. Finding that balance is difficult, but it is a rewarding journey for those who don’t shy away from the challenge.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2021

I failed in one exam. The student affair office sent me mail and email to remind me. It was very stressful. I didn’t cry or complain because I knew the reason why I failed. I thought it would be easy and I didn’t study that much for it. For the following exams of that course, I spent much more time preparing for them. For this kind of stress, doing exercise or your supporting system may not be very helpful. Don’t blame yourself too much or doubt yourself. Going to the exams with full preparedness is the best way to destress.”

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

Your mental health is more important than your grades.

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2020

“Find something you enjoy doing that has absolutely nothing to do with the veterinary field and stick with it. For me, I joined a new gym and learned how to box/kickbox. It made a huge difference in my mental health to work on myself in a way that had nothing to do with veterinary academia.”

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

“Prioritize yourself. There is enough stress in vet school, that you need to remove any kind of extraneous stressors in your environment, whether that be toxic friends or classmates that stress you out. Find a different place to sit, find another study group or study by yourself. “

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2021

“Find your stress relievers. For me they were talking on the phone, watching silly talk shows, running, splurging on a frappucino. All the little perks in life can really help when you need a lift. Also, remember that sometimes you can’t do it all yourself. Remember to ask for help.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2003

“Exercise is fun and good for the body and mind—an exercise routine keeps me feeling healthy, physically and psychologically–Meditation helps me spiritually.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2007

“Always plan fun things as motivation to do something productive for school (i.e. finishing an assignment early, reading in preparation for lectures, reviewing anatomy, etc.). Do the work first, then play as a reward.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2007


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Well-being Handbook Copyright © 2019 by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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