Stress: It’s Just Not Worth it

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on February 17, 2017. You can read my other post here.

I don’t know about you all, but the whirlwind of work has already set in for me this semester. I have a lot on my plate in the coming months, which is both invigorating and overwhelming. It can be tough to find just the right workload that pushes you to achieve without leaving you burnt out. If you’re starting to feel burnt out and overwhelmed by the coming semester, maybe it’s time for you to take a step back and evaluate what’s on your plate.

In life, it can be easy to let your choices be dictated by what other people expect of you. It’s great to get advice from others and be mindful of other people’s expectations, but I think it’s also important to learn to put your foot down and stand up for  your own needs at times.

It’s awful to feel like you’re drowning in never-ending commitments. Sometimes we become so convinced that we have to do everything or we can’t let people down that we stay in extremely stressful, even toxic, circumstances. But we end up hurting ourselves and even letting others down even more because we can’t give all the tasks we’re juggling our full attention.

IMG_1789.JPG

De-stress picture #1! (Taken in Prince Edward Island, Canada, one of the least stressful places I know of!)

Of course, sometimes we really have to shoulder a ton of different things in our lives; it’s beyond our control. If that’s the case, it’s still important to draw a line and not let work and other commitments take over your life. Make time to relax and remember to take care of yourself by doing things as simple as eating regularly, getting sleep, and staying hydrated.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the semester already, consider doing some of these things:

  1. Cut something out of your life. Drop a class, ask to reduce your hours at work, cut back on the number of organizations you’re in…You don’t have to do everything! It’s more important for you to be healthy and for you to do things well, giving them your full attention.
  2. Build a support network. Find one or two supportive friends or family members who you know you can go to when you’re overwhelmed. Maybe even delegate one of them to be your “No” person who will remind you not to take on more than you can handle!
  3. Find a professor or other staff member to mentor you and help you navigate all that’s on your plate. We have wonderful, caring staff here at USG, and they are here to support students and are often more than happy to give advice, offer encouragement, and answer questions.
  4. Consider talking with a counselor at USG’s Center for Counseling and Consultation or attending one of their free workshops teaching skills to handle stress and live a healthy life.

    img_1648

    De-stress Activity: Imagine yourself on a beach! (Photo by Rebecca Gale)

  5. Take time to de-stress. Plan little breaks in your day. Take a walk outside and look around at the scenery, noticing things you haven’t before. Sing along to the radio in your car. Find a hobby as simple as coloring or learning how to make smoothies to give you breaks so you don’t feel like you’re drowning in work.
  6. Enjoy good conversations with friends, even on a busy day. One of the first things that tends to go when I get busy is socializing, but taking time for a laugh or honest chat with a friend can really go a long way.
  7. Get rid of things in your life that bring you down instead of lifting you up. Avoid unnecessary extra stress…Does the news send you into a rage whenever you see it? Does social media overwhelm you or make you feel like you’re not good enough? Avoid things on your phone, TV, and computer that add to your daily frustration.

I know it can be tough sometimes to say no to things and it’s easy to feel like a “wimp” for trying to take care of yourself, but I honestly believe it’s for everyone’s benefit if we all manage our lives to be a healthy balance so we can be our best selves and be able to step up to the plate in the tasks we are faced with. Stress can really take its toll on relationships and mental and physical health, so be wise about controlling the amount of stressors in your life and learning how to cope well with stress when it does arise.

Advertisements

How to be a Better Human: Food for Thought About Friendship

This is a longer version of a post I wrote for “Around the Grove,” the student blog of the Unviersities at Shady Grove. I’m also considering writing a series of posts called “How to be a Better Human” with my unsolicited advice about being a kinder, more compassionate member of human society who gives back, and this will be a precursor to that.

If you’ve logged onto your Facebook recently, you might have noticed that Facebook is celebrating their “birthday” with a holiday they created called “Friend Day.” Now, personally, I don’t have a great track record with having good friendships in the last few years, so I thought it might be interesting to reflect a bit on friendship in my first blog post this spring semester. A lot of people say, after all, that the friendships you make in college are part of what makes your experience so meaningful. The flip side of this, of course, is that bad friendships or a lack of strong friendships can make a college experience really difficult.

The beginning of the semester tends to be a time when people have friendship on their minds: getting to see friends from last semester again, trying to make new friends if you just transferred, meeting new people in your classes, etc. I figured I would offer a few unsolicited pieces of advice that I’ve learned from experience of the years on the subject, particularly as they relate to starting back at school:

  1. Be open to making new friends (even if you’re a senior.) I’ve heard seniors tell friends they don’t want to bother with meeting new people because they’re about to leave anyways. You never know when great opportunities will come your way, and you might be surprised how many friends will drop out of your life once you move on to a new place. So be careful about writing people off or closing yourself off to the potential of forging new friendships. If you’re not a senior, it can be easy to get comfortable with your friend group and neglect making new friends. There are lots of interesting people in the world who are worth getting to know and who might expand your horizons and enrich your life.
  2. Be open to being friends with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with. Some of the most unexpected people have ended up being my best, most loyal friends over the years, so don’t write people off as not your type too quickly. Also, be aware that some people take a longer time to warm up to people and open up to others and show their true personality (like yours truly!) We all have a tendency to be attracted to the loudest person in the room, but consider trying to get to know the quiet people on the periphery; I’ve come to learn they can make great friends and have a lot to offer (though maybe I’m a little biased!)
  3. Welcome new students. All of us undergrads at USG have experienced being a transfer student. Maybe it went well for you or maybe it was really lonely and stressful. Either way, have some empathy for those who are just arriving and welcome them: introduce yourself, include them in conversation, and just be open to getting to know them. It’s sadly not unheard of for some people to look down on newbies, but we’ve all been the new person…Do you really want to be the jerk who forms a clique and excludes others?
  4. Cut off toxic friendships. This doesn’t directly relate to school life, but I think new years and fresh beginnings can be a great reminder to clean out toxic habits, thoughts, and people from our lives. A lot of us at USG have moved from other schools or places, and I’m sure many have experienced the frustration of friendships we cherished fizzling out. It’s helpful to remember that some relationships are just meant for a certain part of our lives; people come and go. If someone isn’t invested in you and prioritizing your friendship at the same level that you are and you find yourself more hurt than uplifted by that relationship maybe it’s time to let go.
  5. Even though you’re busy, remember to let people know you’re invested in them. Nothing kills a relationship like an unresponsive friend. So even though you have a lot on your plate, remember to take a moment here and there to do these things for friends and loved ones:
    1. Ask them how they’re doing
    2. Tell them why you appreciate them
    3. Leave them a note or send an encouraging text
    4. Let them know you are thinking of them
    5. Respond to their emails, texts, etc. in a timely manner (or let them know you will get back when you have the time)
  6. Respect others’ points of view and be a good listener. Obviously, our political and social climate right now is very tense and full of harsh words. As a community of scholars, I think it’s crucial for us to continue to respect the opinions of others, listen to their point of view, and try to be understanding rather than just dismissing or insulting whatever we don’t agree with. A lot of people feel powerless right now, but, as corny as it sounds, I think the communities we create in the little worlds we each inhabit can have ripple effects into the world around us. And we can make a huge impact on the people around us – for better or for worse – in our daily interactions.

Well, with that, I think I’ve said more than my fair share, but I hope that you all will enter this semester open to new relationships and that you’ll be able to find some kindred spirits to brighten your life among the swamp of papers, projects, and textbook readings!

Best of luck with this new semester!

You’ve got a friend in me

This was posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on February 3, 2017. You can read my other posts here.

If you’ve logged onto your Facebook recently, you might have noticed that Facebook is celebrating their “birthday” with a holiday they created called “Friend Day.” I thought it might be interesting to reflect a bit on friendship in my first blog post this spring semester. A lot of people say, after all, that friendships are the best, most lasting part of the college experience. The flip side of this, of course, is that bad friendships or a lack of strong friendships can make a college experience really difficult.

The beginning of the semester tends to be a time when people have relationships on their minds: getting to see old friends again, trying to make new ones, meeting new people in your classes, etc. I figured I would offer a few unsolicited pieces of advice that I’ve learned over the years that might be helpful as you start your semester:

  1. Be open to making new friends (even if you’re a senior.) I’ve heard seniors tell friends they don’t want to bother with meeting new people because they’re about to leave anyways. Even if you’re not a senior, it can be easy to get comfortable with your friend group and close yourself off to new friendships. However, there are lots of interesting people in the world who are worth getting to know and who might expand your horizons and enrich your life…You never know what’s around the bend!
  2. Be open to being friends with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with. Some of the most unexpected people have ended up being my best, most loyal friends over the years, so don’t write people off as not your type too quickly. Also, be aware that some people take a longer time to warm up to people and show their true personality. We all have a tendency to be attracted to the loudest person in the room, but consider trying to get to know the quiet people on the periphery; I’ve come to learn they can make great friends and have a lot to offer.

    20161010_102155

    Friends of a feather flock together 😉

  3. Welcome new students. All of us undergrads at USG have experienced being a transfer student. Have some sympathy for those who are just arriving and welcome them: introduce yourself, include them in conversation, and just be open to getting to know them.
  4. Cut off toxic friendships. I’m sure many have experienced the frustration of friendships we cherished fizzling out. It’s helpful to remember that some relationships might just meant for a certain part of your life; people come and go. If someone isn’t invested in you and prioritizing your friendship at the same level that you are and you find yourself more hurt than uplifted by that relationship, maybe it’s time to let go.

    ccnlogo_2015_transparent1

    USG believes in promoting a culture of care (photo courtesy of USG)

  5. Even though you’re busy, remember to let people know you’re invested in them. Nothing kills a relationship like an unresponsive friend. So even though you have a lot on your plate, remember to take a moment here and there to ask friends and loved ones how they are or remind them that you appreciate them.
  6. Respect others’ points of view and be a good listener, inside and outside of friendships. Obviously, our political and social climate right now is very tense and full of harsh words. As a community of scholars, I think it’s crucial for us to continue to respect the opinions of others, listen to their point of view, and try to be understanding rather than just dismissing or insulting whatever we don’t agree with.

A lot of people feel powerless to make change right now, but, as corny as it sounds, I think the communities we create in the little worlds we each inhabit can have ripple effects into the world around us. And we can make a huge impact on the people around us – for better or for worse – in our daily interactions and relationships.

Best of luck with this new semester, Shady Grovers!

Having trouble making friends or want to be more involved on campus? Sign up for USG’s weekly newsletter for on-campus events, and check out these other great campus resources:

And, of course, keep checking Around the Grove for news on campus events and student lfie!