Stress: Impractical Advice

“The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.” - Mark Manson

TLDR: Drop most of your classes.

Let’s get the stuff we hear all the time out of the way first: eat real food (plants and animals), spend 20 minutes each day elevating your heart rate, and don’t procrastinate. Got it? Moving on.  

Prioritize your values Let’s be honest for a moment: how many students are here because of their passion for science, and how many students are here because they simply felt it was the best career option available or faced external pressure to pursue a four-year degree?  If you’re at NMT chasing a passion and loving the struggle, good for you. You’re on the path. If not, here’s a question everyone needs to ask themselves once in a while: am I burning myself out for something that doesn’t matter to me? Take care of what you can, do your best, but sometimes you have to recognize that good enough is good enough.

I’m not suggesting by any means that you drift through school disconnected and indifferent. Apathy is just as bad (maybe worse) than stressing out over things that don’t matter to you. But you can choose what you care about and how much emotional space it’s allotted. The hard part is finding out what you care about. This takes most people their entire life though, so don’t stress too hard.

Prioritizing values is difficult and varies from person to person. Just remember that you’ll always struggle, so consider what you’re willing to struggle for.

Pursue your hobbies Hobbies aren’t what you do in your free time; hobbies are what you make time for. Get the homework done so you can play beer bong, or paint, or pwn n00bs, or whatever it is you do. And don’t feel guilty about doing it, either.

By the way… if school or work is your hobby, that’s living the dream.

Breathe According to Ben Greenfield, a renowned body and brain performance coach, “Breathing can immediately effect on your physiology by altering the pH of your blood and changing your blood pressure. Even more important, you can use breathing to train your body’s reaction to stressful situations and to dampen the production of stress hormones.” Purposeful breathing can be used to manipulate the mind mind-body connection. Quick shallow breathing activates the “fight-or-flight”response in your body and produces cortisol, which, after a sustained time can lead to more stress, anxiety, and depression. Slow, deep breaths on the other hand stimulate the opposing parasympathetic system.

Here’s a cool experiment: next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, take 30 deep, belly filling breaths.  See how that makes you feel.

Sleep Here’s a crazy fact: it’s not normal to feel tired all the time. Think about sleep from an evolutionary standpoint: why would nature allow us to spend hours in a completely vulnerable state if not for something really, really, really important?  

According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleep not only enhances our ability to learn and memorize, the lack of sleep also affects our mood, motivation, judgement, and perception. So roll your eyes at people who brag about pulling all nighters and take a nap.

Remember You’re Okay Maybe you failed a test. Maybe you’re drowning in homework. But maybe that’s exactly the way things should be. Maybe we romanticize life too much, and forget we have to “feel the thorns” along with smelling the flowers.

You don’t have to know what’s going on. Nobody does anyway. We’re on a giant rock spinning through infinity, nothing makes sense. And that’s okay.

[Breathe] Greenfield, Ben. (2014). Beyond Training: Mastering Health, Endurance, and Life. USA. Victory Belt Publishing, Inc.

[Sleep] Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. 2007, December. Sleep, Learning, and Memory. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory

- Sam Burleigh

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