Thursday, November 17, 2011

School stress, lack of sleep not worth it

Columnist suggests exercise, writing, deep breaths to relax in face of finals

By Paula McFadden, Opinion Columnist

As finals rapidly approach, students may have to make a choice between sleep and homework because of procrastination, many upper division classes or just not having enough hours in a day.

Every day, students are learning how to be active global citizens who are able to think critically about the world in which they live, but school or work is still not worth putting your body under too much stress.

In high school, I took yoga for four years and now I am taking a relaxation techniques class. Both classes have taught me the importance of taking time to relax.

Stress is not something that just goes away as soon as you graduate from college. Learn how to control it now, so you are not always pushing yourself to the point of getting sick.

Here are a few ways to help deal with stress that I learned in “Stress Relief and Relaxation Techniques” by Judith Lazarus.

Making sure you get enough hours of sleep at night is one way to lower your stress levels.

How many hours of sleep did you get last night? If the number is less than seven, your body is accumulating sleep debt. If the body does not get at least seven hours of sleep a night, it remembers the hours lost and will not function properly until those hours have been regained.

Sleep is very much like a credit card payment. Not paying the debt will not make it go away. It will just increase the amount of problems you will have to deal with in the morning.

Another way to decrease stress levels is to breathe deeply. Our natural breath tends to be shallow compared to what our body actually needs. The more oxygen your body takes in, the better your body will function.

This means that each inhale and exhale should take at least four seconds. Take five minutes of your day to concentrate on your breath, and you will feel more relaxed to focus on stressful tasks.

The last stress reducer is writing. Writing is a way to deal with anything that could be causing you stress.

If you are uncomfortable with writing down your feelings, you could just write everything you did in a day.

This will help you gain perspective on how capable you are dealing with many tasks and will also show you that all those things are in the past. You can move on from those things that are making you feel stressed.

Do not let finals or homework completely take over your life. They are one tiny part of your education and will be finished before you realize it.

Editor’s Note: Paula McFadden is a junior at Pacific Lutheran University pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in writing and minors in communication and publishing and printing arts. She lives on campus but calls Lakewood, Wash. home.