Dealing With Stress

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March 16, 2012

3:17 AM

During exhausting midterms time, we all begin to feel the full effects of the demon known as Stress.  An overachieving “to-do” list 3 miles long and lack of sleep combine to leave us gasping for air.  But before you begin crying about the amount of academia piled on your plate, just take a breath and think about what’s contributing to your stress levels and how to reduce it.

Aside from turning you into a caffeine-fueled version of Yosemite Sam, stress can severely impact your overall physical and mental health.  It can cause or exacerbate ulcers, skin conditions, depression, unhealthy weight and a variety of other health issues that can affect you later on (not to mention adding a few premature grey hairs).  When you look and feel like the walking dead, something’s got to change.

So what can an overwhelmed college student do to minimize the damage during academic hurricane season?  Here are a few tips for making your life a little less like Walmart on Black Friday:

  1. BREATHE.  Stop for a few minutes and practice taking deep breaths.  There’s a reason why this tip sounds like old news; everyone says to do it because it WORKS.  Breathe in slowly, counting to ten.  Hold your breath for a few seconds and then exhale slowly within ten seconds.  Take the opportunity to simultaneously work on your Darth Vader impression.
  2. REEVALUATE.  In the course of a lifetime, how much does it matter?  Step back and get a fresh perspective.  Did you fail a quiz that you had studied ridiculously hard for?  Sure, that can be a huge bummer; it probably feels like you wasted your time trying to study at all.  Does it make YOU a failure?  Absolutely not.  We all have setbacks, and you need to allow yourself to see the bigger picture.  Events that seem like major drawbacks in the spur of the moment almost always end up being far less important in the grander scheme of things.  After all, Chancellor Gates has done pretty darn well for a guy who got a “D” in his freshman Calculus course.
  3. TAKE BREAKS.  So you tell me that you’ve spent the past eight hours studying in Swem.  How much of that time was actually spent studying?  If you didn’t give yourself solid breaks at set intervals, I’d be willing to bet that most of it was spent on Facebook or in some other electronic time vortex.  On average, your brain can only truly handle 45 minutes of solid concentration at one sitting. If you find that you’ve read the same paragraph four times over and still haven’t come any closer to understanding astrophysics, it’s probably time for a break.  Do something that re-energizes you: Take a stroll around your study area, watch an episode of Modern Family, clean something, prank your roommate…the possibilities are endless.  Just make sure you take the time to recharge that brain, or your productivity level will plummet!
  4. EXERCISE.  Exercising releases endorphins, and endorphins reduce stress levels.  You don’t have to run 15 miles or canoe the perimeter of Lake Matoaka to get the effects – just do some form of exercise that you love for the sake of enjoying yourself!  Whether it’s swimming laps, jogging through CW or starting an intense Nerf war on your hall, any movement will do wonders.
  5. LAUGH.  Did you know that there are social clubs around the world solely dedicated to laughter?  Groups will gather and fake laughter until their ridiculousness causes genuine giggles.  These people aren’t just loonies with too much time on their hands; laughter has been proven to reduce stress and increase overall health.  Instead of getting frustrated over a stupid mistake, learn to laugh at it.  Taking just a little time out of your day to laugh and have fun in life will keep stress levels down and morale up.

 

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”

–Benjamin Franklin

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About Author

Katherine Ottman
  • Katherine Ottman

Katie Ottman '14 is an anthropology major from Fairfax, VA.

  • This was so helpful! Perfect tips for my stress week coming up thanks! Can’t wait for your next post…