stress

Why am I still stressed out?

Author: Francesca Flamini

As a high school student I tend to get stressed out a lot. It seems like every time I have all my work under control one of my teachers decides to throw in a ten page essay just for kicks. After multiple experiments with procrastinating until the last minute, throwing papers together right before school, and freaking out in between class periods, I knew my stress was getting bad. Not only was it affecting my grades, but it was impacting my mental health and emotional state. I knew I had to do something about it.

I’m the kind of person who wants to fix all my problems in the easiest, quickest way possible. So naturally I browsed Amazon. I got color coded folders, a planner, colorful pens, anything I thought would help me stay organized and focused. My complicated system was working perfectly, until end of the year finals rolled around. Over the course of the following weeks my classmates and I were handed packets upon packets of studying material and worksheets. My carefully color coded folders were overflowing with papers, spilling into my backpack. I found myself frantically shoving papers from the red folder into the blue and listening to my french textbook PDF at lunch instead of eating. Needless to say, I was more stressed out than ever. And I realized all my “solutions” to my stress were reliant on me being an organized person (which I’m not). I wanted to look into deeper solutions to stress management, so maybe next year I wouldn’t have to rely on folders to keep my sanity at school. If you’ve ever looked up how to deal with stress, you probably know how disappointed I felt when I saw some of the leading hospitals and medical programs in the nation telling me that it was as simple as getting more sleep, or managing my time. I wanted to know more about the science behind stress. From my thorough google searches, I learned that stress happens when your body feels like it's under attack. This triggers your body's fight or flight response which then causes it to release hormones and chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol.

After learning this I didn’t feel any better about handling my stress (except for maybe being able to answer a question on my next chemistry final). I was feeling pretty defeated. I had searched every question I had about stress and found nothing to help me. While I was searching my many questions, google must have felt my struggle because in my Youtube recommended section, I found Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and Stanford lecturers' Ted Talk. The talk is called “How to make stress your friend”. I skeptically clicked on the video expecting her to tell me to start a stress diary or drink more water, but what I got instead was an actual understanding of my stress and what to do about it. I highly recommend watching the talk because it explains it much better than I can, but here are the main things I took away from it. The stigma that stress is bad for you is just that: a stigma. Stress is not bad for you, stress is your body preparing you to handle the things you’re stressed about. By viewing your stress as helpful and not a sign that you are overwhelmed, your body believes it too and you stay calmer. I know, I just told you one of the things you least wanted to hear- "it's all in your head". But studies have found that stress only affects you negatively when you think that it will. This changed my whole entire outlook on stress. I was so captivated by this that the next day I asked some friends what they thought of stress being a good thing. One of my friends put it very eloquently. She said that whenever she felt stress about something, instead of giving in to the negative nature of stress, she worked through that feeling. She said some of her best work is done in her most stressed state.

After watching the TED Talk and hearing some of my friend’s thoughts, I decided to try to work through my stress instead of getting wrapped up in it. So while I was studying for my last final I decided every time I was feeling stressed, I would channel those emotions into focus and think of it as a positive. I ended up studying for three hours straight (something that was very rare for me). I ended up getting my best score on that final (in a subject I’m not the best at).  Now that I have a positive connotation with stress, I don’t get it as much. I also get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time. Although this has been a great solution for me, I’m still keeping my color coded folders just in case.

 

Sources:

TEDtalksDirector. YouTube, YouTube, 4 Sept. 2013,  www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU&t=488s&index=2&list=PLfxK08mfoVvpqASJAAo49ysW0nELQMJTZ.

“What Is Stress? Symptoms, Signs & More.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress.

Go to Sleep

Author: Daniel Nguyen

I love sleeping, but like most people I sometimes have difficulty going to sleep. We spend a third of our lives sleeping, and making sure you get a sufficient amount of sleep is much more important than you think. Have you ever find yourself staying up at 3am because you just can’t go to sleep? I know it sucks, I’ve been there. But I personally have several methods that have worked for me to get myself to sleep. One method is exercise. Not only is exercise alone good for your health, but I found that moderate exercise in the evening helps me go to sleep because it helps me feel tired. Having a 30 minute jog never fails to make me have the urge to sleep. Another method is resetting your sleeping schedule. What I mean by this is that if you find yourself waking up super late because you stayed up late, set an alarm early such as 8:00, and FORCE yourself to wake up at that time. Don’t take any naps that day, and by the time your bedtime rolls around, you’ll feel very tired and will very likely fall asleep easily. One of the last methods I use to fall asleep is to avoid caffeine. I don’t mean avoid it entirely, but refrain from drinking it in the evening. Coffee in the morning is okay, but as a college student I know many others who use caffeine to help stay up late to study. Caffeine prevents you from falling asleep easily, and you also shouldn’t put off sleep. Sleep is way more important than you may realize.

This year in spring quarter I took an applied mathematics class, and before the midterm my professor gave a short speech in class about sleep. He mentioned how important it is for us to sleep and that he would rather have us get a good sleep than spend the whole night studying. Based on my experiences, I very much agree with him. If you don’t think sleeping is that important, a news article published by the Perspectives on Psychological Science has Christopher Barnes (from the University of Washington) and Christopher Drake (from Henry Ford Hospital) explained how sleep deprived workers will likely make more mistakes, lose creativity, lose self awareness, and an overall negative impact on self-control. So sleep as a whole is very important to our brain because depriving yourself with sleep with impact your thinking and cognitive function. So if you have something important tomorrow such as a test or interview, I would highly suggest to think twice if you’re thinking about staying up. You will perform at best if you get a good night sleep!

 

Sources:

"The Working World Has a Sleep Crisis." Association for Psychological Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2018.

I Tried Bullet Journaling: A Popular Creative Outlet

Author: Kelsey Fukuda

I recently picked up a new habit that’s been both fun and has helped me with organizing my thoughts. Bullet journaling is a fairly new trend that’s been appearing in a lot of my YouTube recommended videos, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. Bullet journals use “rapid logging”, which is quicker to jot down than other types of journals. The fun thing about bullet journals is that you can really customize it to be whatever you need it to be. In my case, I use my bullet journal as a planner, to-do list, and inspiration board. The format of my bullet journal is fairly similar to others out there. Each month has a cover page, each week has a weekly spread, and then there are extra pages used to write down ideas that I have.

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Not only has bullet journaling helped me organize my time, it has provided me with a creative outlet. Doodling and journaling are also proven to have cognitive benefits as well! Doodling is known to help with memory, stress relief, and improved focus. One researcher suggests that a reason why doodling is beneficial to us is the idea that doodles are similar to stress-relieving motor acts that alleviate impatience, boredom, and indecision. In some cases, doodling also helps with “affective attention”, which leads to increased watchfulness and concentration. On the other hand, journaling has its own benefits for your mental health and your brain. Journaling is known to help with managing anxiety and reducing stress by facilitating people to prioritize their problems and concerns, track their daily thoughts, and identify positive and negative thoughts or behaviors. Combining journaling and doodling creates a perfect pair.

Every week I try to sit down and plan my upcoming weekly spread. This helps me to organize my schedule and think about any important events I have coming up. At the start of every month, I like to think of a theme that I can stick with when designing my pages. Depending on the goals I have that month, I will sometimes create different visuals for tracking certain things such as habits, mood, sleep, and budget. I sometimes leave pages blank in case I want to create lists or have ideas to write down. For example, before traveling I like to list out places to see and things to eat in that area. Or sometimes I will have a list of recipes that I want to try. Even some gift idea lists are helpful to look back at. The great thing about bullet journals is that you can add whatever you need to it and make it your own. Personally, I like to look at Pinterest for ideas and then adjust them to my preferences and needs. I would definitely recommend trying out bullet journaling! You get to decide how much time and effort you want to put into designing it, so it doesn’t have to be a chore to write down your schedule anymore.

 
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Sources:

Schott, GD. "Doodling and the Default Network of the Brain." The Lancet. N.p., n.d. Web.

Pillay, Srini. "The "thinking" Benefits of Doodling." Harvard Health Blog. N.p., 11 Dec. 2016. Web. 08 May 2018.

"Journaling for Mental Health." Eastman Institute for Oral Health - University of Rochester Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2018.

Want to Improve Your Performance Even Though You Have Anxiety? Don't Stay Calm, Get Excited!

Author: Daniel Nguyen

As a college student, I constantly fall into situations and activities that lead to anxiety and stress. Whether I'm taking a final, heading to a job interview, or doing a presentation in front of my class, anxiety always seems to get the best of me. Most of the time my anxiety cripples down to the point where it can negatively impact how I present myself in these situations. If you find yourself in an anxiety-inducing activity, you may have tried to tell yourself to calm down and relax. Many of us have probably been told that doing this will help, but I am here to tell you that this is the complete opposite of what you should do. Believe it or not, if you want to perform better and help dampen the effects of anxiety, get excited! If you tell yourself to get excited, you may find that you will do much better in these situations than if you focused on relaxation!

Studies on college students at Harvard University has shown getting yourself to become excited helps with performance on activities that trigger anxiety.  In the study, they had 140 participants prepare a public speech. They randomly told people to say either, "I am excited!" or "I am calm." before they begin. It was found that those who said they were excited gave longer, persuasive, and relaxed speeches than those who said they were calm.

If you are unsure on how to get yourself to become excited, try saying out loud a simple statement on excitement! Telling yourself, "I am excited!" can lead you to adopt a more opportunistic mindset which can help bring you to feel more excited about your performance! On the other hand, telling yourself to calm down is ineffective and will most likely produce unwanted effects because you will start thinking about all the things that can go wrong in the performance. You want to instead tell yourself about how things can go really well in your performance, and getting yourself excited will help a lot with this.

I've always struggled with presentations and interviews, and fighting against anxiety makes it twice as worse. But gradually I became better at managing it. It used to be the case where even knowing that I'm about to present next will cause my heart to race and my body to get all sweaty and itchy. My voice would sound weak and at this point I would start messing up my sentences when I speak. Thankfully, near the end of high school I adopted the excitement method to try to help with my anxiety, and I would say it helped a ton! It's hard to explain, but if I'm getting excited for something, my thought process changes as a whole. It makes me feel like I'm showing the class something amazing rather than feeling like the class will be judging every move I make.

Being excited helps drift my focus away from irrational thoughts. Whenever I get anxiety, I start thinking negatively about how other people might perceive my actions. This would always cause me to lose my train of thought during a presentation or interview because I would think to myself, "Wait…are people understanding what I am saying right now?" and I would proceed to ponder about what my next word choices should be. All of this contributes to an overwhelming feeling of doom. Gratefully, getting myself to be excited helps clear this mindset because it shifts my attention from how people perceive me to how exciting the subject is!

In a nutshell, anxiety can be a big influence in the choices we make and how we act. Feeling excited about what you're about to dive into will highly improve your performance. While this did help me a ton, I wouldn't say this got rid of all of my anxiety. I still get nervousness and irrational thoughts from time to time, but this method has helped calm my anxiety down immensely. And to whomever is still reading this and needs help with anxiety, please don't try to calm yourself, instead become enthusiastic! Be thrilled that you have the chance to perform! Be inspired that you can finally do your presentation! Be eager to take that test and ace it! It's all about populating your mindset with positive attitude and thoughts!

 

Sources:

American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2018.

Passion Over Pressure

Author: Siena Helland

I have been playing soccer for as long as I can remember, and I probably learned to kick a ball
before I learned to walk. The sport has been a large part of my life and has shaped me into the
person I am today. My dad introduced me to the sport at a young age, and my love for the game led me to playing for a club team. From there, I traveled across the United States competing against some of the top teams in the country, and I had my sights set on playing in college. As I was nearing the end of my high school years and preparing for college, I had realized that playing soccer was no longer fun. I no longer was excited to go to practice, compete in games, or wanted to play in college. My passion for the game was replaced by anxiety, and I was forced to outplay my friends so the college scouts would want me and not them. The pressure got to me, and by the end of my junior year of high school, I left my competitive team and lost my favoritesport.

After seeing the sadness from losing one of my favorite pass times, my dad had found a co-ed
adult team that I could join. My senior year of high school I had a trial run and they immediately invited me to join their team. It's now been three years and I continue to play every week with this team. This league is competitive and we play against good teams, but there is no pressure to be perfect, no one to impress, and no one subbing you out if you miss hit a ball. I finally found an atmosphere that allowed me to play soccer in a relaxed and pressure-free environment, providing me the happiness I'd been searching for.


Every week I look forward to my Thursday night games and being able to exercise, clear my
mind, and participate in an activity that I love. There are so many of us that exercise and play
sports in negative environments or under conditions that do not give us happiness, but instead
cause us stress. Exercise is supposed to be a stress reliever and provide us happiness along with good health. By finding joy in exercising, you create a healthy environment for yourself, not only physically, but mentally as well. Exercising can help you clear your mind of stressors and think about what's important to you. It can also help you find a positive attitude, boost your self-esteem, and bring happiness into your life. Exercising and playing a sport is one thing, but if you can do this while reducing stress and pressure and incorporating more passion and joy, the benefits of exercising will increase, and your well-being will thank you.

 

Sources:
Organic Facts. "Surprising Benefits of Playing Sports" Organic Facts.
https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/health- benefits-of- playing-sports.html.
Published February 14, 2018.

Traveling as a Stress Reliever

Author: Erin Keating

Shoes off, sweater off, everything out of my pockets. Laptop in separate bin, backpack and everything else in another. Arms up over head and feet spread slightly. Grab everything as fast as you can and head to the gate.

Airport security is something I like to think that I have mastered. I have learned a lot of tricks for making my time at the airport as easy as possible. Like not wearing difficult shoes, just a pair that you can take on and off easily. And making sure you at least have a couple snacks with you since airport food is more expensive and not that great.

Traveling is one of my passions and I’m always on the lookout for another opportunity to escape, especially somewhere warm in the winter months. Living on the west coast, a popular place I like to go to is California, sometimes to visit family in San Francisco and sometimes to just have fun in Los Angeles.

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Recently, I went to London and Paris for a month. I learned so much about new cultures and art and it was so much fun to roam new cities I have never been to before. There are great benefits for travel and I have found that by saving up a little bit here and there, making a trip happen is easy.

A study published by HostelWorld Global Traveler Report showed that there are five significant benefits of traveling abroad. First being that traveling makes you healthier and decreases the risk of heart disease. It also reduces stress, specifically after you’ve returned home and are feeling the benefits of being well rested and at ease. Traveling as makes you more creative with the immersion into a culture. It increases your happiness and satisfaction levels and it decreases depression.

All of these benefits I can attest to. When I return home from traveling, I feel happy to be home and to see my family and friends, but I also feel like I have gained a new experience and fun memories to look back on.

Sources:

"5 Reasons Traveling Abroad Is Seriously Good for Your Health." NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2018.