Testing stress

By Tessa Munson
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Photo by Tessa Munson.

This is it, we’re wrapping up the Spring 2018 semester! Congratulate yourself for making it this far! This is a difficult time during the term. Arguably the most difficult time during the whole semester. Students are all scrambling to finish writing papers, preparing presentations, and studying for finals. With a heavy workload, often comes a truckload of stress. People have lots of different ways of dealing with stress; healthy or unhealthy as they may be. Some people eat junk food, some smoke, some drink alcohol, some over-exercise, some over-consume media, the list goes on and on. But what are some good habits to get into to deal with stress?

Yoga, meditate, and take deep breaths. I highly recommend yoga, meditation and deep breathing techniques to help deal with immediate stressors, as well as long term, chronic stress. Studies have shown that after just two weeks of regular yoga and meditation, peoples’ brain chemistry physically changes. Some schools, particularly poorer schools with higher rates of violence and more students affected by difficult home lives than not, have added yoga and meditation into their curriculum. The results are staggering. At large, the children have become more focused, calm, patient, and are learning how to cope with their feelings in a constructive, non-threatening way. Even just 5-10 minutes of yoga, meditation, or deep breathing every day can make a tremendous difference in mood, energy, patience, and focus.

Exercise. During the semester, it is easy (and almost expected) to get so caught up with school and work that we often neglect exercise for our other priorities. I urge students not to do this. It is important to release pent up energy and aggressions using exercise, rather than allowing it to build up within, ultimately resulting in implosion. Even if it’s just once a week, any exercise is better than none!

Set realistic goals. This seems like an obvious one, but it can be much more elusive than you may think. Tell yourself that you’ll finish two assignments on a given day, and then actually finish them. Set achievable goals for yourself, rather than attempting to achieve the impossible, like writing a solid “A+” 20 page research paper in one or two nights.

Pace yourself. Instead of setting aside one day per week to work on schoolwork, do a little bit throughout the week to help avoid becoming overwhelmed as it all piles up. Think back to your realistic goals, and set realistic timelines for those goals. Don’t try to accomplish too much at one time. It’s easy to get burnt out, and it’s important to stay focused as well as determined in order to live up to full academic potential.

Don’t stress eat. This is a two-parter. Don’t overeat because of stress from school and work, but don’t avoid eating, either. Some people have the tendency to overeat, or eat too much of the wrong types of foods while they’re stressed, and others stop eating real meals all-together. Whichever stress eating-habit resonates with you, the common denominator here is to avoid junk food. Whether you overeat or undereat, just make sure that what you’re eating is a healthful food option.

Whatever your bad stress habits may be, it is important to identify them and work on them when the going gets rough. As daunting as the task may be, it is so important for mental, physical, and emotional health to learn how to cope with heavy stress loads. After college, life doesn’t get any easier or any less stressful, if anything, it gets worse. This is why it is imperative to gain the skills necessary to deal with exaggerated amounts of stress before getting out into the real world, where flaws are less often forgiven. If the stress is too much to bear and none of the above techniques are working and you feel that you need someone to talk to, please visit the Personal Growth & Counseling Center during their walk-in hours, or give them a call at (831) 582-3969.

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