Mackenzie Hurlbert – Copy Editor –
It’s a stressful time of year, and with final reports, essays and exams, who has time to even think about maintaining a healthy stress level? I think that throughout this semester especially, considering the snow days and cancellations, faculty and students alike are experiencing high stress levels while trying to cram in every last minute lesson before the week of finals. These skyrocketing stress levels can be harmful to your mental and physical health.
Don’t let stress cause you to end your semester in a slump! Stress causes physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches. Emotional and behavioral side effects of stress include anxiety, nervousness, change in eating habits, loss of enthusiasm and depression. No matter how busy your schedule is or how packed your work week seems, there are some small things you can do to wind down and de-stress yourself in order to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Exercise: It doesn’t have to be a five-mile run. Even getting up and cleaning your room can be a form of physical activity! By being active and exercising, you can embrace a natural stress reliever that increases your endorphins and helps the body focus. Maybe take a quick walk around campus or do some stairs in your dorm hall. Do whatever you need to in order to relieve some of this stress and rejuvenate yourself. If you have a gym membership, pick two or three days during the week and commit to work out during a certain time slot. You’re probably saying, “I get enough activity walking back and forth from campus.” I understand your argument, but actually exercising and focusing on physical activity is more rewarding. The fact that you’re not thinking about the class ahead or the test you just had is much different than dragging yourself back and forth between the dorm and your classrooms. Give yourself some you time and fill it with whatever endorphin-raising activity you choose—it doesn’t have to be much.
Laughter: Laughing is always a good remedy no matter the symptom, but in this case, laughter has actually been proven to positively lighten your stress load. The way it works is this: When you’re stressed, you have a medium to high heart rate and blood pressure. Laughter increases that heart rate by exciting it beyond the levels of stress, and then when your laughter subsides, so does your heart rate. Therefore, your body is relieved of stress because your heart rate decreases back to a normal level. Why not watch a little of your favorite comedy or find funny clips on YouTube? Find whatever strikes your funny bone and take a break from your work for a good laugh.
Sleep: This is a number one priority for me. The amount of sleep I get determines my attitude, mental state, concentration, and emotions for the following day. It also kind of determines what I wear too (sweatpants are a sign of little to no sleep). Eight hours of rest is usually the doctor’s orders, but sometimes it is hard when deadlines and finals loom overhead. It’s a sick cycle; you’re stressed because you didn’t get much sleep and you can’t sleep because you’re too stressed! Now how can we break it? There are a couple things you can do to wind down before going to bed. Let’s start with the things you shouldn’t. Don’t eat right before you go to bed because while you’re trying to fall asleep, your body is fighting to stay awake in order to digest what you just ate. Also, don’t study or do homework in your bed. I know the dorm rooms are cramped, but try to keep your work to your desk. If not, your subconscious will associate your bed with work and not sleep, and you’ll have a hard time drifting off.
Things you can do to wind down before going to bed are actually quite simple and take little time. Write down what you’d like to accomplish the following day and whatever else is on your mind. Then when you go to bed, you won’t have to worry about forgetting your “to-do’s.” Music can also help you wind down before you go to bed. Listen to a few of your favorite calming songs and focus on the lyrics or instruments—not on your stressful thoughts. Before you know it, you’ll be relaxed and ready to hit the hay.
Don’t let stress ruin your holiday season! Take these precautions and work to maintain a healthy stress level. Lastly, a comforting thought: We have less than two weeks left of this semester, and it’ll be over before we know it. You’ve got this!