In fast-paced American culture, stress is everywhere: controversial Facebook posts, traffic, messy roommates, not to mention assignments, grades, work, plans for summer or life after graduation.Many times, we barely manage to handle stress. With the dark, gloomy Indiana winter and rapidly shifting political climate in the U.S., we may find it even harder to cope.
Stress manifests itself in extremes: overeating or undereating, lack of sleep or oversleeping, etc. Sometimes we withdraw from others; other times we lash out at small irritations.
For me, the day before the Record publication (Wednesday, or, as the staff and I call it, “Record day”) is when my stress levels are through the roof. My checklist is often longer and more difficult to get through than “Gone with the Wind.”
My stress shows its face in two different ways: biting my fingernails and using made up words.
So far, my list of invented words includes gems such as undocumentation and (a personal favorite) readdition.
These manifestations of stress are easily identifiable and harmless (although relatively unhygienic and slightly embarrassing). But for many people, it is often not that simple.
Just like some people have a higher pain tolerance than others, certain people can handle more stress than others. While some thrive under the pressure, many succumb to the self-doubt and fear of failure.
Because of our differences, it can be difficult for us to identify when the people around us are under stress. If left unaddressed, the person under stress can often become a danger not only to others, but also themselves.
One way to manage is to talk about our negative emotions: doubt, fear, anxiety, etc. We need to help others take a bit of weight off their shoulders without ignoring and pushing aside our own.
Another way to manage is to breathe. My father, who handles stress like a professional, has a phrase that gets me through my most anxious moments.
“Breathe in the good: air, heart, strength. Exhale the bad: doubt, pain, frustration.”
Someone recently pointed out that our bodies can’t always tell the difference between physical stress and emotional stress. After a long run or finishing a difficult workout, most people put their hands over their heads to make it easier to breathe.
When our bodies are under that much stress, both physical and emotional, our heart rates are elevated and our cognitive abilities are extremely low. By breathing deeply, we lower our heart rates and think more clearly.
So when you feel like you are swimming in a pool of stress, try coming up for air. While breathing deeply won’t solve all your problems, it is a good place to start.
I can’t forget to wish my dearest mother, Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and women and gender studies, a happy birthday.
You are, simply put, a constant inspiration. May your day be stress free.