By Madison Swart
Finals, graduation, starting a new job, moving home, moving to a new city, not having your usual routine of the school year…
It’s no secret that late spring brings a whole vat of stress along with it.
So, during this time of life transitions and stressful events, I really really REALLY need for you to remember something – Ed THRIVES on stress.
He literally sits around and waits for various moments of vulnerability.
What makes us more vulnerable than stress? (Believe me, I know the “I’m so stressed so I will just do nothing and lay in my bed and cry” feeling/action/decision more than anyone – Just ask my mom!)
When we find ourselves in personal crisis, Ed will present himself as an ally…as a friend.
He is standing (or sitting, or lying – whatever he does with his pathetic existence) there, waiting for you to break down just enough that you will find comfort in anything –
Even if that is the one thing you know you should avoid like the plague.
I started struggling with my eating disorder early on in high school, and battled it through my first semester, sophomore year of college. Ed was there for me when I went to college, transferred schools, switched majors, studied for finals, and any time I was stressed in any way.
The issue is that while he helped to relieve some of my anxiety and stress in the immediate moment, he would always bring along with him an aftermath of sadness, depression, guilt, and shame.
I realized that Ed was my default reaction to anxiety, and that there were so many other productive ways that we can deal with anxiety or stress in ways that don’t hurt our mental, physical, social, and academic health.
Psychotherapist and researcher, Angela Favaro, Ph.D., gives three guidelines for improving how to deal with stress in the book by Aimee Liu, ‘Restoring our Bodies, Reclaiming our Lives’.
- Understand that stress is normal
Here, it’s important to realize that you are indeed stressed, and that it’s perfectly OK. Stress has the helpful function of acting as a signal for you to recognize your needs. Thinking of stress in this way makes it a lot less overwhelming and approaches it in a ‘problem-solving’ manner rather than letting it overtake you. This is like how you’d use a relapse to figure out what’s wrong and try to come up with the best ways to proceed. For most people, our automatic response to stressful situations is to blame ourselves for feeling that way, but Favaro says ‘Criticizing yourself for feeling stressed or trying to suppress the feeling will only increase your anxiety and make it more difficult to handle the situation.’
- Take stoke of your current stress-management resources and abilities
Dealing with stress isn’t some innate gift bestowed upon only a select few. Everyone can deal with stress better once they have some good tools in place to cope with it. Favaro suggests identifying ‘the resources and relationships in your life that currently help you manage stress as well as factors that limit your ability to manage stress (such as fatigue, lack of free time, unsupportive relationships).’
- Identify the resources and abilities you still need to develop to succeed in managing stress
What are other things that would help you better manage stressful situations? Favaro lists several strategies that are known for their stress-soothing abilities: meditation, hanging out with friends, hobbies, nature. She suggests writing down, in steps, how you’ll add these tools to your day-to-day while reminding us that ‘effective stress management is not a quick fix, bur a lifelong process.’
So as you enter this stressful time, remember to cut yourself some slack.
Take a study break and go to a yoga class with your friend, or even just try and meet up with friends to study (I’m all for killing a few birds with a single stone!) When you notice yourself getting stressed, or overwhelmed, close your eyes and count to ten. It’s amazing what this quick and easy exercise can do to your perspective. Often it’s when we act in the moment that we regret what we do – and think of how many times Ed has preyed upon you in moments of impulsivity.
Lastly, remember that nothing is permanent. If things are going great – enjoy it, because it won’t last forever. If life really has been throwing you around lately – don’t worry, because ‘this, too, shall pass.”
About the Author: Madison is the Founder and President of the Ohio State University Chapter of Project HEAL! She is a senior majoring in Social Work and Psychology currently working as an addiction counselor for The Ohio State University Student Wellness Center. After graduating in May, Madison plans to stay involved with Project HEAL while pursuing a career in Social Work, hoping to help individuals struggling with mental health struggles. Madison runs a blog, www.theadultinghippie.com, and paints in her free time.