Posts Tagged stress



After endless papers, countless pages written and read, I finished freshman year. Exhausted, sleep deprived, eager and most importantly proud of what I have achieved during my first year of college, I turned in my last paper, went through the odyssey of moving out and began my journey home. The stress of finals made home appear like a an oasis in the middle of the desert. After being away for six months and after being under the most intense academic pressure I had ever experienced, home was a necessary stop for I needed to “recharge” my batteries, and as many of my professors suggested, reflect on the successes and downfalls of the year that had just ended. I thank them for their advice for I was considering taking summer courses but after some thought, I realized that that would not have been the best idea since I was mentally exhausted from six months of intense academic expectations.

College tires you out, as high school has done to those who are seniors now. You can only write so many papers and read so many books until you stop enjoying what you are doing and begin to see it as a burden and a hassle. I experienced this at one point during spring term where, when it was sunny and really nice outside, I found myself in the library doing readings for my comparative politics class. Had it been earlier in the term (and less sunny outside) I would not have been complaining about the work that I had to do. After talking to some of my friends about this issue, we came to the conclusion that at the end of the day, we are still kids (although we are older than 18) and that there is a need for us to have fun and put aside the academic pressure that piles on us. Also, we arrived at the conclusion that we need to match our determination to succeed with an approach that assures that we are healthy psychologically. If our minds are tired or stressed, we will not perform our best and thus, a bit of fun from time to time is necessary.

I know that some of us fall under the category of those hard workers that are always looking for something to do. There is nothing wrong with that since it is that work ethic that has gotten you to the position in which you are right now. But remember that you are not a machine (a fact that I tend to forget a lot of times) and that you need rest and time to relax. It is a proven fact that you learn more and are able to assimilate more material when you are not under stress and thus, there is a need for study breaks.

And so, my message in this short blog is that those who are seniors (and now high school graduates), enjoy your summer after what I am sure has been a stressful year. For those who are rising seniors, enjoy your summer as well because you are going to need to be well rested for what will be a really intense year, full of applications and essays. Have a great summer guys!

Oh, the Places YOU Will Go!

abigail-85A year ago around this time, my high school principal read us a passage from Dr. Seuss’s famous book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” At that moment, my friends and I had no idea what the point of it was, I mean after all, we weren’t children anymore; why read to us from a children book?  A year later, I have finally made sense of that infamous passage:

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own.
And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

I finished my first year at Dartmouth College in a way I hadn’t foreseen: energized. Finals went well; I didn’t pull any all-nighters and didn’t stress at all. Now, I have a summer to reflect on everything that happened between September and now, a summer in Brazil! I will spend 10 weeks in Salvador, Bahia furthering my understanding of the Portuguese language and learning more about Afro-Brazilian Culture. Dartmouth is a partner school of ACBEU (Associação Cultural Brasil-Estados Unidos) and I will be taking classes alongside students learning English. No amount of exclamation marks can emphasize my excitement of visiting a foreign country but I will say this: THIS SUMMER WILL BE ONE TO REMEMBER!

During the first week of September I will come back to the U.S and spend a few weeks at home until it’s time to come back to Hanover. It’s hard for me to believe that in another year I’ll be reflecting on an amazing summer and preparing for another memorable term. This is only the beginning and I’m sure you all will also have some wonderful news to share in the upcoming months.

Desejo a todos o melhor e boa sorte!

Nobody’s Perfect: Set Your Own Personal Limits

lysa-85As president of my college’s Peer Health organization, we decided to center our final campaign of the year around the myth of effortless perfection and how while college students might seem like they have it all together all the time…WE REALLY DON’T. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EFFORTLESS PERFECTION!

While this may seem obvious, it’s often not as crystal clear as it appears to be. I even catch myself sometimes, believing that I must be the ONLY PERSON on campus who can’t manage an A in my super difficult class or can’t seem to finish a paper or reading on time. Even though I know it’s not true, it’s easy while in college to believe that you must be the only person experiencing what you are feeling and that everyone else must be having a perfect time like they should be. After all, college should be fun, right? All those all-nighters are expected, right? Don’t we all have it together all the time? The truth is WE DON’T, AND WE’RE NOT PERFECT…BUT THAT’S OKAY! This might be the most important lesson I have learned during my two years in college.

A friend of mine wrote an op-ed in our school’s newspaper which discussed this very topic. Surprisingly, most people feel the same way but just do not speak up about it. Our campaign allowed students to anonymously submit ways in which they are not perfect on slips of paper to our club. We then collected all responses and created a picture campaign of students around campus. We anonymously matched up the photos ( covering each person’s face with a picture of our school mascot, the purple cow) with the ways in which Williams College students are imperfect and put all posters on display around campus.

Some valuable things I realized from speaking with multiple students during this campaign include the following:

We all know the image of the ideal college student. Some students closely resemble this image of the well-rounded student, a double major, taking as many classes as possible, while playing a varsity sport, and maintaining a leadership role on campus and planning to study abroad. But this is CLEARLY NOT ALL OF US! We are all pretty much sleep deprived at some point or other during our college career and we can’t all juggle more classes than the ones we have to take. It’s nearly impossible to find time to merely exercise and maintain all coursework required for each class, yet alone play a varsity sport each semester.

A tour won’t tell you about nights spent crying, or the stress that classes pile on. They won’t let you in on how some students go as far as taking caffeine pills and harming their body just to stay awake a few more hours of the day to get their work done. Nobody wants to admit their drowning in their school work. But, honestly, that is where I found myself this year.

I was sleep deprived, stressed beyond what I could manage, and overall, compromising my health for a shot at a higher grade in a class. But as college students we must truly ask ourselves: when is enough, just enough? When is your health more important than your education? What is your own personal limit? I did not know my limit until this year, when I clearly passed it and could no longer handle college. I encourage you all to find your own limit before you get to this point. Figure out how much sleep, meal time, and even down time that you need to stay focused, healthy, and do well in college. But, do not compromise your own health or sanity for school. I found myself doing that very thing and it honestly did not get me far. Staying up late every night, just made me moody, depressed, and unable to focus in classes. I was upset that my grades weren’t improving from all the extra time I was putting into my classes, but rather getting worse! Probably, because I was sleep deprived and would catch myself falling asleep in class and during tests! Staying up all night should never be an option. I myself am going to come up with a new plan for next year, because I was only harming myself and my health by doing so. The symptoms of effortless perfection are pervasive on a college campus.

As hard working college students, we often try to convince ourselves that we can balance our sleep, study and socializing time, but the truth is, usually we can’t. Sleep is the weakest link, and all-nighters often become an accepted part of your college life. When you work towards perfection everyday… failure is not an option. That was my own worst fear: Failing a class or not being able to handle college and disappointing my family as a result. But, Fear of failure keeps us from trying new things, whether that means courses, activities or friendships. And it makes us stick with things that we think we should do, even if they make us unhappy. It’s as though we’re so worried about our future at times, that we can’t enjoy the present. For those of you who already in college and have felt many of the same feelings I have described in this post, know that you’re not alone and next time somebody says: “Hey, how are you?” don’t just say okay, good, or fine, if you truly don’t feel that way. Be honest to not only others, but most importantly, yourself. Sometimes things aren’t Fine. Everyone thinks they’re the only person who can’t handle it, but you’re not alone. My friend Eliza once told me: “Everyone struggles with stress to varying degrees. The way to be happy is through effortful imperfection – throw your energy into what you love, even if it means failing sometimes.” Nobody is perfect and the truth is that sometimes Failure can be much healthier than trying to be perfect all the time.

Spring Break 2011

ashley-85On televisions shows and movies, college kids all seem to go to Cancun or some other tourist beach for spring break. As I counted the days (and then hours) until my second spring break, going to the beach never crossed my mind.

Last year, I went home and told myself I was going to relax and do my homework and just enjoy the time off, little did I know then that I wouldn’t even have time to sit and relax. Being away at college means that when I come home everyone (and their mother normally) wants to see me. There is so much to do and so many people to see that I kept telling myself I needed more hours in the day!

This year, I was much more wise about my spring break plans. Living in the same space as an 8 month old, there is never time to relax. While I still did not touch an ounce of homework, I did volunteer at Head Start and it was an awesome experience! Being home was my favorite part, as it always is. And with the exception to Saint Louis experiencing a whole years worth of weather in 10 short days, snow and ice in the same week as a wonderful sunny 85 degrees always makes things interesting, Spring break was a nice break from the everyday stress of school. And maybe one year I will do the whole beach thing for spring break, but for now, there is no place like home.

Handy Dandy…PLANNER!

seanna-85                Last week in Neuropsychology, my professor was explaining the short and long term effects of stress on the body.  The hypo-something interacts with the adrenal-something-else and cortisol a.k.a the stress hormone, is released in the body.  Short-term, stress can help you get through the all-night cramming session with that test you procrastinated for…it’ll help you finish that 5-mile marathon run that involved a mildly twisted ankle at the 2-mile mark…heck, it may even get you through final week four papers, two tests, and one final project later.  HOWEVER, after that test…after that run…and after final week, the prolonged influence of stress will often lead to a temporary immune system collapse, maybe a little bulge build-up, and most definitely, a bout of over-exhaustion. 

                In conclusion…STRESS is not good for the body, and yet, college students find themselves routinely anxious, running from one class to the next activity, squeezing in food and showers when time allows it…FORGETTING repeatedly to take that “me-time” for recuperation. 

                Enter…the planner…a well-structured, pre-organized, time-charted, life-saving strategy for stress management.  Sophomore year, I’ve been able to pull my planner from my bag more often than a stick of gum or lip gloss.  My fingerprints are permanently engraved on the front cover, but it has helped immensely with my ability to look at my entire week, prioritize to-do tasks, and SCHEDULE IN relaxation/party/”me” time.  Every year of college involves a new onslaught of activities and obligations that’ll fill the time.  Hopefully, you’ll enjoy them, even including the class assignments and study groups with friends.  This year, I’ve found myself learning to say “no” to some things…over-commitment is a sworn enemy of balance. 

                This week alone, I have a mid-term on Tuesday, commentary due on Thursday, four meetings, gym time, 16 hours of classes, two seminars to attend, over 300 pages of reading, and preparation/study time for next week.  But guess what I’ll be doing from 10-11:30 PM three nights this week?  I’m open to suggestions, but they can’t include ANYTHING that takes focus away from me taking time for myself.

Destination: Home

sophia-85Spring break, you managed to swoop in and save me at the best possible time. When I was at the peak of my stressing out, you allowed me to have the break I needed.

Well, right now, I’m not really on my break yet. I’m sitting in a train for seventeen hours until I finally get to be home. This year it seems like I’m really working for my spring break.

There is nothing more rewarding than being able to go home and just simply relax.

It’s insane to think that I picked a school like Chico State with one of the reasons being that it was eight hours away from home. At the time, that didn’t seem nearly far enough, but I figured I was willing to compromise.

People always have trouble at home, you always want to get away. It’s just funny how now that I got away, I cannot wait to get back.

This does not mean that I don’t like Chico State. I love it and I love how it made me realize the amazing things I had and still have at home.

I realized that every break I have for college, I don’t think about going anywhere else but home first.

This train ride is only a small price to pay for the joy I’ll gain from spending time with my family and sleeping in my old room.

My hands are trembling with excitement to be able to see the enormous city of Los Angeles, which was once just a place, but is now more of a characteristic I have.

When you move away, people relate you to where you are from and there is no greater feeling than being proud about where you are from.

With all this talk about how I miss my home, I leave you with the advice to look into schools that are a little farther from your comfort zone.

The independence and maturity that is built is worth the long drives home and back. The problems that once drove you crazy at home, become a nostalgic story.

Anywho, I hope everyone has or even had a good break! Cherish what you have and I’ll write to you later.

I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

irvin-85College is, in a few words, is a mixture of emotions, conflicts, successes, self-realizations, ever-increasing responsibility and many falls; these very same reasons are why I love college. As I have mentioned before, college is a continuous humbling experience, always teaching you a lesson with every instance that occurs. The second quarter that I have spent in college has been the most academically challenging time period of my life. Three classes at a time might not seem as much but believe me, at the pace that these classes go, you are gasping for fresh air every Wednesday and feel a huge relief once Friday comes around. Since everything is so fast paced, you cannot waste any time, specially if you are taking a science or math course. Physics in college is very, very different from physics in high school and I have come to realize that the hard way. Never had I felt so overwhelmed by the material of  class until I sat in a physics lecture which covered an entire chapter in less than an hour and a half. My other two classes added even more stress to the already stressful term and not to mention that the harsh New England temperatures did not help my situation. Yet,  despite the stress and the cold, snowy nights, I have to say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the intellectual, and at times, even physical challenge that college poses. College tests what you are really made of and I love that. Yes, I could do without the stress and without the pressure that grows greater as the term goes on, but I believe that this is preparation of what is to come. I’d rather be challenged out of my comfort zone and grow than simply remain comfortable and not develop as an individual. I had to make hard decisions, such as deciding to withdraw from my physics course, thus changing my intended major from engineering to totally undecided. Yet, all of this is experience from which I can draw from in the future. All of what I am going through is experience for what will be the real world, stress, hard decisions, work, but at the same time, there is also great relationships that are formed along the way. I will talk more about that in the next post, but until then, seniors, stay strong! And juniors, start studying for the ACT!

From my Dorm at USC

jordan-85Please enjoy my first video blog, talking about the college admission process, the new year and new classes, and showing what a typical college dorm/residence hall looks like.

Check it out here.

Flash Cards!

joseph-85Big Surprise: Finals time was stressful.  Couple that with the other assignments that have been looming at the end of the syllabus and everyone can tell you the time is overwhelming.  For a while though I thought I had it beat.  Every semester I get better at finishing assignments earlier.  This semester I was doing very well, albeit not talking to many people, and sitting in exhaustion at the circulation desk at my library job about to fall asleep.

I had thought long and hard about the phrase “Idle hands make sin;” about how in high school I had 7 classes and a great deal of other activities to engage in and I seemed to have so much more time.   I did recognize that at my high school there was almost no homework (and by oxy standards no homework at all.)  At oxy though, I serve on a couple committees, work, and volunteer with a few clubs.  Compared to high school I’m not doing anything, and I have very little free time to be spontaneous.  So I signed up for a fifth class hoping that my self-regulating academic capabilities could help me through.

They did, but since I can’t focus on work for more than 45 minutes to an hour without some irresistible compulsion to move or walk around, I ended up staying in the library until 5 in the morning quite often.  But my studying this semester was revolutionized, especially for Econ and German. I was saved by some advice from my German instructor. Two words: Flash Cards!   For just about forever I’ve been stubborn about flash cards.  When I was a reading mentor for younger students years ago, I was supposed to use flash cards to help the kids.  The kids never responded positively to them and I had grown a sort of dread and hatred myself towards what appeared to useless little pieces of paper that taunted the poor children who didn’t have parents that taught them to read when they were younger.  Reading books with them I always thought was much more effective.  Also flash cards just mean memorization, and I’ve never been good at that or found it particularly useful.

Anyway, don’t let biases keep you from doing something that can help you.  For me, it was the simple act of writing the information down onto the flash cards that I found so helpful.  It ended up making this an A- semester and made Christmas break all the more sweeter, until I got this flu that has lasted literally a week.  I should write a post about how much I get sick.  Thankfully, I’ve got this over the break, because it would have been a disaster during the school year.