Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier features editor
Kelsey Brady, Campus Carrier asst. features editor
As a college student, every day can be stressful. Along with being a student, there are also responsibilities that include having a job/s, volunteer obligations, extracurriculars such as interest groups or clubs and an on-going social life. Meeting deadlines and making time to hang out with friends can seem overwhelming when there are only 24 hours in one day. Senior Callie Whitesell, Peer Education coordinator, offered some tricks on how to declutter the stress in order to be mentally and physically focused during the spring season.
Stress and anxiety can have an adverse effect on a person’s physical health, according to Whitesell. Stress can possibly lead to a lack of immunity to infections and diseases because the immune system is not as strong as it should be. Also, without stress management, the attention span may not work quite like it should. Whitesell said that a person may experience an inability to concentrate while in class.
“Practicing things to destress can improve your immune system and help you get sick less or recover more quickly,” Whitesell said.
Whitesell encourages students to get a regimented seven to nine hours of sleep per night. She said that this average may vary from person to person. For example, an athlete may need more hours of sleep because they are required to expend a lot of energy during their daily routine. Whitesell said that even though these hours may not work for everyone, some tips to help reach a sleep goal include turning off cell phones or putting them on “Do Not Disturb” before going to bed.
Also, while college students may want to opt for easy, fast-food meals, eating nutritional foods such as the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables can be beneficial. Whitesell said that simple is better, especially with spring break and midterms close, so focusing on one goal to work on can be less daunting.
While physical health is important, so is mental health. On campus, there are many opportunities to find destressors that intentionally target calming the body and mind. For example, a yoga class is held every Monday through Thursday in the Cage Center. The times differ each day, but classes are usually held in room 202 or 204.
“Meditation has some spiritual roots, but it has also been proven scientifically in a lot of studies to be really beneficial for people,” Whitesell said. “That practice of clearing your mind is not something that necessarily comes naturally, and it’s really good for us physically and mentally.”
Whitesell also recommended the weekly meditation sessions that are held by the Berry Buddhist Student Group (BBSG) at the Interfaith Center which is located in East Mary. Every Wednesday at 7 p.m., everyone is welcome to attend the meditation session regardless of religious affiliation, according to BBSG Faculty Advisor Jeffrey Lidke.
Meditation focuses on the person being present in the moment. So, Lidke said that if a person were to be washing dishes, that would be the only thing they would be thinking about. The person would not be focusing on work or an upcoming assignment. He said meditation helps a person learn to focus on what they are doing and be present in what they are currently doing.
“Just sitting quietly and the deep breathing, I think, has an immediate physiological effect because it enables people to start centering and becoming calm and the deep breathing we use is about maximizing the amount of oxygen that comes into the body,” Lidke said. “So, as you start bringing in more oxygen and slowing the breath down, it has an immediate impact on the physiological system in terms of helping you destress.”
If attending the meditation session, Lidke said that it is about one hour long and consists of three different components. First, a local yoga teacher prepares participants on how to do the upcoming poses. Then, the session focuses on meditation and yoga poses. Finally, the last of the session is focused on sharing a Buddhist text.
“Formal meditation is just the gateway, and the real key to it and the real challenge is what you do, as the saying goes, when you get off the cushion,” Lidke said. “It is not limited to that 20-minute formal session.”
An alternative practice that can also help reduce anxiety, stress or simply bring calmness is a walk in nature. Lidke advised taking short walks, hikes, exploring trails or even just looking at the sky. In addition to these simple but effective tools, Whitesell also said to try getting off campus and taking a drive around Rome.
With midterms on the horizon and graduation looming for seniors, the end of a semester can be stressful. If help is wanted or needed, the Peer Educators and Counseling Center are available for appointments via email, telephone or in-person.
What else can stress do?
- Stress can affect the brain-gut communication. This can result in stomach pain and bloating.
- Stress can cause headaches and migraines due to muscle tension.
- The heart rate increases as a result of stronger heart contractions caused by short-term stress. Anxiety hormones, like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, are what effect the heart muscle.
- The digestive tract is affected by stress, which can lead to diarrhea and constipation.
- Long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke.
- Stress can cause respiratory problems such as shortness of breath and rapid breathing. This happens when the airway between the nose and the lungs constricts.
This information is according to the American Psychological Association. More information can be found at http://www.apa.org.
Blooming in to new habits… Have you tried this?
- Gratitude Journal: A gratitude journal is a way to keep track of the things that you are grateful for throughout the day. They can range from very minor occurrences such as waking up on time to the sun shining bright. By writing down what you are thankful for, the journal helps keep up with big and little things in life that may make you happy and grateful.
- A “To Do” List: Keeping an organized “To Do” list can manifest in many ways: a planner, an event calendar or even a notes tab on a cell phone. However, not forcing yourself to remember everything you have to do in one day will take pressure off your already busy schedule.
- Make Time For Friends: Socializing with other people is an integral part of boosting physical and mental health. So, do not feel bad about taking a break from studying or homework to spend time with friends because, most likely, your body needs that time to recuperate.