Textbooks as thick as the dictionaries or encyclopedias are common sights in universities. Attempting to download all its content to your brain in less than 2 weeks is no joke.
Can we really cope with stress, when we have so much to study? There are a lot of write ups about it and why is it that you are still stressing about stress now?
There must be something wrong with the way we think about stress. Maybe instead of coping with it and thinking that there must be some ways to get rid of it, why won’t we try to befriend it? You know what they say “Bring your friends close, and your enemies closer”.. lol Seriously though, stress has been the number one enemy of students and it has become an issue. Because when you can’t handle stress properly, it will consume you and you might probably break down mentally and physically, before you make it to the exam hall.
So we have come out a new read to help you feel more confident, happy and relaxed with stress this semester.
It’s a fly
There’s one thing you should always remember about stress, that it is INEVITABLE. No matter what you do, it will never go away, just like an annoying fly. That is because stress is designed to help us get out of physical danger. If threatened, our brain calls the amygdala (a set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe) that sets off an alarm bell which triggers the “fight or flight” response of our nervous system. This then floods our blood with adrenaline and cortisol (a steroid hormone) which increases our heart rate, blood pressure and our respiration, hence the adrenaline rush you experience prior to moving into the exam hall.
This heightened state once saved us in our cave days where it’s mostly “fight or flight” mode, especially when physical threat is involved, say there’s a tiger or a snake inside your cave. It does little to help us with today’s worries such as forgetting your mathematical equation in the exam hall, but the response is still the same. How do we then deal with it ?
The Placebo Effect
A study from the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine and Public Health found that 182, 000 American died prematurely not from stress but from the belief that stress is bad for them.
There was also a study conducted at Harvard University, where participants were given stress test. But before they enter the test, they were taught to rethink their stress response as helpful. They were told that the pounding of the heart and the heavy breathing is the heart’s way of preparing them for action by having more oxygen flow to the brain.
The participants who viewed stress this way were more relaxed, more confident and less anxious. But the most amazing finding from the study of Jamieson, Nock & Mendes 2012 Harvard University Department of Psychology was the physiological response from the participants who viewed stress as helpful. Their blood vessels stayed dilated as opposed to becoming constricted which is the typical stress response and the main cause of cardiovascular disease. The heart was still pounding, but it’s a much healthier cardiovascular activity. It’s basically the same profile as when you are experiencing moments of joy and courage.
How you think really about stress really matters. So, have you thought about changing it?
Be a Soldier
Think about it, the stress is there on purpose and for a good reason.
The university is pushing us to go beyond our limits in order to accustom us to the pressure cooker work environment in the future(disclaimer: we are not paid by the university). Other people who had it easy in their lives will not be able to cope as well with the trials and tribulations that are going to present themselves. If you have been through army, you know that route march training begins at a mileage of 2km and eventually moving up to 24km at the end of Basic military training stint. What you are going through now is a mental form of training to get you prepared for the ultimatum.
Now, if you ace an exam without having to study or do research because everything is spoon fed by your teacher, then your school life is really plain and boring. So, embrace the training and take pride in it, like a soldier.
Be a Mini Philosopher
What is the meaning of your life, or to make it sound more attainable, the meaning behind what you do daily in school? No doubt, being in university involves experiencing discomforts, but when you are aware of the meaning behind why you are in school, then you will find that spark of hope that serves as inexhaustible fuel even during the darkest moment.
By being in school, are you working towards your childhood ambition of wanting to be a ______ ? Or are you doing your parents proud ? Perhaps you are maximizing your potential and toughening yourself intellectually and mentally ? Its worthwhile to ponder about your ‘why’, which is not a far-fetched question by the way, but one that will save your life, and your studies.
If your ‘why’ is strong enough, you can deal with almost any ‘hows’ – Nizetche
Stress is Healthy
According to Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., a health psychologist teaching at Stanford University, stress makes us social. Yes, Social. One thing we don’t know about stress is that when we feel burnt out from all the schoolwork, our pituitary gland releases a hormone called Oxytocin. It’s our body’s way of nudging us to find someone to share how we feel instead of bottling it all up. Therefore, stress encourages us to talk and reach out to friends and family members instead of binge eating and growing depressed. This in turn, makes us happy.
On top of that, this hormone does not only act on our brain, but our body as well. It’s a natural inflammatory which protects our cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. Stress can be healthy after all.
I know you are expecting steps on how to deal with stress, but there’s a lot of of write up on that nowadays. What we should be looking into is the science on how to befriend stress to make our way of life much easier. Life is really what you make and design it. All you have to do is to have the right mind and attitude towards it.