De-Stressing Guide: Train Your Brain

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A Note From the Editor: 

The first wave of midterms passed and somehow you’re still alive. Unfortunately, an unnecessary buildup of stress continues to develop and hover over every last bit of energy in your tired body. Here at MODA, we understand how stress can turn into your worst enemy. To lighten the post-traumatic stress from the first wave of midterms and to further prevent stress during the next wave, the MODA Lifestyle Staff assembled a De-Stressing Guide just for you. Don’t let stress consume you – live life to its best this semester.

 

by Meghann Stelzner, Contributing Writer

Stress. It is a trait that human beings were genetically modified to have yet it is something that we constantly try to avoid.  While stress may be a part of our DNA, there are still two very different types of stress—good and bad. With a 12-page research paper on the Vietnam War or an eight page literature review pummeling your brain and exhausted fingertips, it may seem like there is no such thing as “good” stress.

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However, like with everything else in life, stress can be good in moderation.  In the short-term, stress can motivate the completion of tasks, it can increase efficiency, and it can boost memory.  We’ve all heard of the “fight-or-flight” response. However, when our stress starts to linger, this is where we run into trouble. “Bad” stress is one that extends past the initial threat, weakening the immune system and causing high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and even heart disease.  Good and bad stress can be difficult to differentiate, but as many medical studies, like Standford’s School of Medicine, point out, some signs of “too much” stress are as follows:

•          Inability to concentrate or complete tasks

•          Increased sickness

•          Body aches or headaches

•          Irritability, increase in anger or anxiousness

•          Trouble falling sleeping or staying awake

•          Changes in appetite

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While we can appreciate Mother Nature for helping us not get ‘chowed’ down by lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), we need to take a step back and recognize when we are showing signs of bad stress, learn how to reduce it, and predict this stress for future situations.

 

Even though I may seem like a stress expert, I am far from it. To be honest, last week I was in over my head with academic and professional work to the point where I was sleep deprived, missed class from studying late, and I became too sick and too anxious to do anything but worry and work.  I kept up this awful model of thinking until I finally sat down and considered my situation from afar.  I wondered, “Why am I doing this to myself?”  While, yes, academics do come first, I finally asked myself, “Is it better to be an ‘A+’ student, fatigued, sick and sad all the time or a ‘B’ student who understands the meaning of balance?” Obviously, I went with the later option.  While it may seem like common sense, it proved difficult to change my way of thinking.

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I started with baby steps. If you’re struggling to find the meaning of balance this midterm season, I encourage you to do the same. Two steps to achieving equilibrium and a healthier mental state include:

  1. Stay in the moment. While it is easy to mind wander and think about the next incomplete assignment while reading about the Vietnam War, tell yourself, “Focus on what you are doing and what you will do.” Never tell your mind to stop because it has been proven to fail. Instead, when you feel your mind drifting, take a break. This leads me to step two.
  2.  Take an hour of your day (or more if you can afford it) to do something enjoyable.  While it may seem ridiculous to have to teach yourself to do such a thing, people tend to focus on the to-do instead of themselves.  Allot time to do something that will make you happy.  Whether this is baking chocolate chip cookies for your neighbor, painting your nails, watching your favorite episode of Grey’s or treating yourself to a chai tea latte, you do you. I promise you will not only feel better as a whole but you’ll be able to address your to-do list from a new perspective.

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Stress is a complicated topic. Quite unfortunately, midterm season brings out the best (or worst) of it in all of us. Stress is something that, left unmonitored, can enter a vicious cycle that takes a toll on your mental and physical health.  Take a step back from the business of midterms and evaluate your relationship with stress.  Work to train your brain and work toward a happy and healthier you; because that is the utmost important thing in life.

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