Got Stress?

Nick Mullen is overcome by stress. Photo by Ellie Cook.

The Broadside asked Peg Meyer, RN/MSN, some questions about stress and how to reduce stress during what is turning out to be the mother of all stressful semesters for many students at HHS.

Q: High schoolers are multitaskers. How does this contribute to stress?
A: An increasing number of studies show that trying to manage many jobs at once rather than completing them consecutively can take longer overall and leave the multitasker with a decreased ability to perform tasks. Furthermore, multitasking is stressful,  the prefrontal cortex, the area in the brain most involved with multitasking, is also the most affected by the resulting stress.

Q: What are the physical symptoms of stress?
A: Headaches, indigestion, stomachaches, sweaty palms, difficulty sleeping,
back pain, tight neck and shoulders, racing heart, restlessness, tiredness, and
frequent colds.

Q: What are some personality changes that can occur due to stress?
A: Irritability, isolation, resentment, loneliness, distrust, using people,
lashing out, hiding, fewer contacts with friends.

Q: What are some tips for reducing stress?
A: 1. Take a few minutes every day to identify stressors in your life and find ways to reduce or eliminate them.
2. Commit to the positive. Find non-destructive ways to reduce stress, especially daily exercise, and any focused activity you love.
3. Be your own personal secretary. Make lists of what has to be done to avoid getting stressed.
4. Immunize yourself through exercise and relaxation techniques.

Q: What is mindfulness?

A: Mindfulness is a concentrated state of awareness that can help us to see and respond to situations with clarity. It is paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment. John Kabat-Zinn has written two popular books on this: Mindfulness Meditation and Wherever You Go, There You Are.  He says: “Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.”

Meditation is one means we use to nurture mindfulness. There are thousands of meditation techniques: tai chi, yoga, focused breathing and using a mantra.

Some simple mindfulness practices include:
• Being aware of your body as you wake up in the morning. Notice the various sensations-your heartbeat, breathing, or points of contact between your body and the bed. Also, notice your thoughts. Where is your mind upon awakening?
• Noticing all the sensations involved in your morning activities, such as brushing your teeth and showering.
• Choose a couple of meals or snacks each week and be fully present. No talking, reading, or watching TV while eating. Pay attention to the sensation, taste and texture of the food you are eating.

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