Keep your cool while studying
By Kacey Deamer
t is finals week and you are sitting at a table in the library. It is well after midnight and your leg is shaking under the table as you clutch your pencil so tightly that your knuckles turn white. Your head feels like it is in a vice, slowly being compressed. At this point it feels as though you can’t continue on.
Stress. College. They go together like milk and cookies. However, stress is something you can manage, something you can prevent.
Everyday Health is an online network that provides up-to-date medical information to the public. In Jennifer Scott’s “College Life: 10 Ways to Reduce Stress” on its website, stress is defined as “when your tension level exceeds your energy level, resulting in an overloaded feeling.”
As a college student, the imbalance between tension and energy is common. One way to ensure that you don’t become overwhelmed by stress is to have a healthier lifestyle. Sleep more, eat better, exercise: the three things your parents, physician and teachers tell you. However, as a full time student living on campus, these tasks may seem nearly impossible.
Suggesting a lifestyle change is asking to not be a student, this is not an option. So how do you manage your stress while on campus?
The American Institute of Stress suggests activities such as “jogging and other aerobic exercises, different types of meditation, prayer, yoga and tai chi…” However, the AIS explained that while these actions may be highly beneficial for some people, others may find that they become bored, or possibly more stressed. The key is to try many different stress relievers to find which work best for you. The AIS also suggests trying muscle relaxation, such as massage or acupuncture.
As mentioned by the AIS, yoga can be a very successful stress reliever and it can also be easily accomplished in the college campus setting. Jessica Rodgers, a yoga teacher at Soma Yoga & Living Arts in downtown Ithaca, said that yoga relaxes the nervous system.
“In today’s world of non-stop communication, the mental activity is so excessive that the nervous system, for many, is constantly over-stimulated,” she said.
Essentially, this over stimulation causes the sympathetic nervous system’s—the part of the nervous system that deals with stress—“fight or flight” to be triggered on a more constant basis.
“The human body is not designed to run off the sympathetic system,” Rodgers said.
Yoga and meditation help to strengthen the relaxation response and with prolonged practice, it can reverse the reactionary state of the “fight or flight” response. Rodgers suggested the Viparita Karani pose for immediate stress relief. She said that the pose allows for more blood to circulate to the brain, which calms mental activity.
If the high stress situation is more similar to the one described above, lying down on the floor may not be an option—unless you don’t mind awkward stares from fellow library patrons. A simple breathing exercise that Rodgers suggests helps to “relax the breath.” How to? The primary thing is to learn to not stop the flow of breath for one to three minutes.
One other stress-relieving trick is to munch on food, which is what many students tend to do anyway.
“I definitely eat more when I’m stressed… maybe it is my natural reaction to stress,” freshman Madison Vander Hill said.
The key, however, is to snack on stress-free food. Health News, an online forum listing information on natural health, noted that foods high in vitamin C promote stress relief. Marie Claire’s consolidated list of nine foods that can help to reduce stress levels actually included oranges. It also suggested almonds and avocados, which help lower blood pressure. Dried apricots made the list due to their natural muscle relaxing ability. Other foods that made the list: sweet potatoes, turkey, spinach, salmon, green vegetables, pistachios and walnuts.
One item not on the list, but that Health News mentions is licorice. Also theanine—a natural ingredient in tea—is also noted as worthy of helping to relieve stress.
The annoying rants on the need to make a lifestyle change in order to reduce your stress and anxiety, which is never really an option, doesn’t help when you are in need of immediate stress relief. Instead of giving up or turning to unhealthy options, maybe you can go for a jog or grab a turkey and spinach sandwich. While these in-the-moment fixes may not keep the stress from returning, they can keep that vice from tightening more.
Kacey Deamer is a freshman journalism major who wants you to go on http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/690 to learn the Viparita Karani. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.