By Sarah Tripp ‘21
It’s the middle of the semester and things are ramping up. College can be demanding and as the semester continues you may begin to feel the effects of drain on your brain. Keeping up with responsibilities is important, but what is also crucial is recognizing the toll overworking may take on your mental and physical wellbeing.
Stress is a condition that affects everyone to a certain extent, no matter the level of involvement in academic or extracurricular activities. According to Katell Guellec, Director of Hamel Health and Counseling at Merrimack, during a stressful experience, “our body increases production of a number of hormones as a way to respond to what is a perceived crisis.” However, when one finds herself surrounded by too many stressors she may be inundated with hormones which can have a negative effect on the body’s health. Guellec says that things like “increased anxiety and depression; weight gain; and sleep problems” can come from high levels of stress.
You do not want to go through college feeling as if you are fighting through stress on a daily basis. Luckily, there are ways to help reduce stress that may allow you to relax and enjoy life, especially as the semester goes on.
Guellec says that, in the simplest of terms, it does not take a lot to practice self-care. She says, “It is the intentional action of doing something just for yourself, of caring for yourself, that can help mitigate stress.” However, it is important to note what exactly you are doing, and according to Guellec, “whether the way you manage stress is positive or negative overall.”
There are many different ways in which to deal with stress in one’s life. Some ways freshman and honors student Jackie LaRivee likes to combat stress is to play music, watch TV or videos, or talk to family and friends. Another way to take your mind off of your stressors is through mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness consists of slowing down and tuning into your surroundings. Most mindfulness exercises have the listener sit down in a quiet spot, upright with a straight back and closed eyes. Exercises done in this position range from scanning your body from head to toe focussing on sensations felt in these areas to simply taking deep breaths and concentrating on your breathing. These exercises are meant to tune your mind into the present moment, not worrying about things in the past or things to come. It is a way to center yourself and find a reprieve from the pressure of daily life. This may even help one stay healthy in the midst of stress. Guellec explains, “For most students, learning how to quiet the mind can be very beneficial and have long-term positive impacts, even if you only practice a few minutes each day.”
Hamel Health also has an upcoming 4-week workshop on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction that is constructed to help students practice mindful meditation skills. The workshop will be held at McQuade Library. If you are interested, you can contact Hamel Health and Counseling to sign up for the workshop, or email Jim Howland. This is a great opportunity to be introduced to the benefits of mindful meditation and it may help you stay focussed on self-care as the semester goes on.
College can be a stressful time and it is important to balance school commitments with your physical and mental health. There are many options that may help you cope with stress. However, if you think that your stress is at a level that may be too hard to combat yourself, meet with a counselor or trusted adult. Despite the fact that stress is universal, it can be felt differently by everyone. By finding a strategy to balance your stress levels you will be able to maintain a healthy mind and body throughout your college experience.
If you are looking for ways to decrease stress and incorporate mindful meditation into your daily life there are now more ways than ever to do so. Some of these include…
- Adult coloring books! Sit down and concentrate on your art, not your stressors.
- Yoga. Focus on your breathing while also getting physical exercise.
- Look for guided meditations and podcasts online. (Hamel Health has linked to some of these on their page under the self-care resources tab)
- Apps like Headspace, Buddhify, and Calm include guided meditations. Find which one works for you. (Most of these apps have in-app purchases for more content)