SELF vs. Stress by Aisling Keane

College is stressful. There is no way around that. As final season approaches, it’s easy to completely disregard my typical sleeping schedule and stay up to the early hours of the morning finishing my work. While it might seem like I’m “working hard” in the moment, the rest of the week spirals into a disaster. I’m tired, unfocused, and I am even more stressed out than I was before.

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This semester I’ve been taking a class in stress management. Managing stress is something I never thought about before. I always thought that seeing the light of the end of the tunnel and knowing the stress would be relieved soon would be enough. I knew I would be able to make it through a really tough week and then I would be able to relax for a few weeks before I had another “extremely busy week.” While this tactic worked, it made that one really hard week, realllllly hard. Now, I’ve been focusing on making the hard week a little easier – and it’s paid off.

I never practiced any stress management techniques before because I didn’t think it was worth it. Going on an hour walk would take away an hour from studying. So, I had to do a major re-framing. After a few hours of studying, my productivity level drops. However, if I take an hour to go on a walk, I am then able to return and do a few more hours of quality studying. The hour I take to go on a walk actually makes me far more productive than if I were to just “plow through” my studying. I had to re-frame this in my mind and learn that stress management was worth my time, and I deserved it.

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I think I’ve always been the world’s worst meditator. Any time I try to meditate, my mind begins to race. I start making to do lists in my mind and completely ignore whatever meditation practice I began. I cannot sit and just allow my mind go blank. I learned about Progressive Muscle Relaxation and I was sold. All you need is 15 minutes and an area where you can either sit or lie comfortably. Slowly, you begin tensing all the muscles in your body. I always start with my face. I tighten my eyes shut, then I move to clenching my jaw. After I really feel how tight my face is and I bring my attention to that, I completely relax my face. Then I continue this practice from my neck down to my toes. It’s a way to gain the same benefits of meditation, while giving myself concrete steps to take. I find myself fully focusing in on making my muscles tense and then relax, I forget everything else going on in the world.

I have started to completely unplug before bed. My phone, laptop and ipad are across the room as I start to settle to go to bed. One hour before I would ideally like to be asleep, I have all of my electronics shut off. I get way more sleep each night because I’m not staying up to catch the next episode or text a friend. By unplugging, I have gained way more sleep than I was getting before. This makes me more energized the next day to tackle anything that might needed to get done but also have the energy to work out and take time to do things I enjoy.

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I am in no means a stress management guru, but I am a pretty stressed out college student. Even by taking the step to make it a priority to take time for myself and lowering my stress levels, I found myself being less stressed. I’ve learned that at a point coffee can only do so much, and I have found that taking an hour out of a day to focus on ways to reduce my stress, I have actually been more productive than ever and have time to do things that make me happy.

 

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