Why Wellesley's Stress Culture Should Be Addressed

Why Wellesley's Stress Culture Should Be Addressed

Feeling a Little Stressed?
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Stress is an inevitable and familiar presence at Wellesley. Pick any student out of the crowd rushing to the Academic Quad or racing up the Science Center’s steps and they’ll rattle on about the p-set they didn’t finish, the test that they haven’t studied for and that “oh my god, I’m so stressed!” before running off to their class in despair. Ask any of the students sojourning in a private room in Clapp or knocking back late-night Red Bulls in Pendleton Atrium and they’ll tell a similar story and complain about the 4-5 hours of sleep they’ve been averaging.

Talk with more students and a familiar phrase will start to emerge: “stress-culture.” I’m sure every college has its own and while no one can truly define what this phenomenon is, scattered narratives will tell of a pervasive force keeping students dragging sleep-deprived bodies past their limits and going to the bathroom at 4am to have breakdowns about their future and how that one B paper is going to ruin everything that they have every worked for.

In an academic institution like Wellesley, where ambitious students reach for the moon and vow to become the world’s next leaders, the stress gets ramped up to sky-high levels. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with ambition or wanting to be the next world leader but these goals can also seed to unhealthy pressures.

I’ve had my fair share, and more, of stress throughout my tenure as a student. I understand that stress isn’t all bad because it keeps us motivated, productive and off the couch, where we would no doubt spend most of the day binge-watching Netflix. However, I feel that the stress culture Wellesley’s competitive atmosphere breeds and can negatively impact student’s mental wellness. I’m hoping that this subject can be broached in a productive way because at the moment, many students clam up about the stress they are feeling or turn it into a strange contest on who is more stressed by boasting about the 10 p-sets they have to complete within the hour. Regardless of how amusing these pissing contests can be, I think it’s important for colleges, not just Wellesley, to take steps forward to transform this stress culture into a more positive force and for students to open up healthy dialogues about their experiences.

Personally, I feel that Wellesley’s stress culture has definitely impacted my mental health adversely throughout my student career. Throughout the year, I’m bogged down in an endless cycle of p-sets, readings and essays that I can never completely finish. Old assignments merge with new assignments so that I am in a perpetual state of anxiety about projects that I should be completing or preemptively starting. So when the rare break arrives, I should be able to enjoy it and re-energize, right? Wrong. Because I’ve been hardwired to be in a continual state of stress, I feel uneasy with the absence of work and cannot truly enjoy myself. Whether I go to a party or take a trip to Boston, there’s always the thought, “Should you being this right now? What about x, y and z that’s due next month?” I’m stuck thinking about the future and the uncomfortable thought that my only motivation is stress instead of more wholesome emotions.

Along with that, I’ve discovered that I’m actually quite lonely at Wellesley. My affable groups of friends from high school are gone, replaced by one to two students that I can really call friends. Now, this could just be my terrible social skills, but I find it hard to connect with other students through the stressful haze of academia. The few times I manage to make a tentative connection and follow up with offers of dinner and study meetups, they’re cancelled at the last moment with apologies of “I’m so sorry, I have a p-set to finish!” I might sound overly bitter but I’m irritated that we’re given so little breathing room that we can’t even afford to bond with our fellow Wellesley sisters. Instead, the pervasive stress culture keeps most of us locked in our rooms where we begrudge any and all breaks from the mountain of work that never ends. As I go about my daily activities, I’ve found that I’ve rediscovered loneliness in the empty chairs around the dining tables and the soft whir of the fan in the solitary Clapp study room.

As I mentioned before, Wellesley is filled with incredible minds and unique talents from all over the globe. I see ambitious students forging their own initiatives to change the world or juggling impossible loads of athletics, clubs and work. In this fertile, competitive atmosphere, the stress culture starts to feed on itself where students see other stressed students and feel the obligation to appear just as stressed. Not because we like being stressed, but because we feel the need to keep up with the motivated and ambitious students who burn so brightly. This makes us nervous to share our stories because to admit that we can’t handle it seems like a confession of weakness and an inability to cope with Wellesley’s rigorous workload. As an insidious corollary to this point, I personally feel the need to participate in the stress culture to prove that I belong at Wellesley, that I can take on just as much work as the typical Wellesley student does. So as I pull an all-nighter finishing a p-set and two essays, I find a perverse satisfaction in the knowledge that I can push myself this far and that yes, I can handle the work and that I deserve to be at the prestigious Wellesley College.

I said this before but I sincerely hope that by sharing a little of my experiences with Wellesley’s stress culture, I can encourage other students to do the same. At the moment, there is a lack of dialogue between students about this topic but I’m hoping that this can change and we can break the self-feeding cycle of Wellesley’s stress culture. In the long run, it’s not the Hunger Games; we’re all just trying to graduate and survive the college madness together.

Cover Image Credit: thegoutkiller.com

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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12 Simple Ways To Ease Your Anxiety

These are some super simple ways to handle your stress at home.

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Anxiety and stress are very common problems for many of us in today's society.

Over 70% of adults face some sort of anxiety or stress in their lives.

It can really be overwhelming and can seriously affect our mood for the rest of the day.

Pushing these feelings of anxiety and stress aside and letting them build up does nothing but cause more harm to our minds and bodies.

Sometimes, we just need a quick and easy way to help alleviate some of this stress to help us get through the day and to help us feel better.

Here are 12 ways to do just that:

1. Practice deep breathing

Mental stress and anxiety can cause your body to respond in physical ways. Since it affects your sympathetic nervous system, you might experience elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness. Breathing deeply and slowly can help slow your heart and ease your body back into a calm state. When I panic or feel overwhelmed, I breathe in slowly through my nose, think of one thing that makes me happy, slowly breathe out through my mouth, and repeat until I can feel my mind and body begin to calm.

2. Light a candle or start up your essential oil diffuser

My personal favorite scent to soothe my anxiety is lavender. However, you can also try chamomile, rose, orange, jasmine, sandalwood, or whatever else might help you.

3. Exercise

This is a big one, but can also be a very difficult one. Whenever you're feeling extremely anxious or overwhelmed, it might be hard enough for you to get yourself out of bed, let alone do any serious exercising. My best advice is to be proactive and try to pay attention to when you first start feeling your anxiety creep up on you. Just go ahead and get up and go for a walk, run, or whatever form of exercise you prefer!

4. Read a book

For me, there's nothing like curling up with a good book to help calm my nerves. Whenever I am knowingly going into a situation that will make me anxious, such as traveling, I always make sure to bring a book to read whenever I start to feel overwhelmed. Reading helps me to temporarily escape my anxieties and can be a big help in giving myself some much needed time to calm down.

5. Do yoga and practice meditation

Yoga is such a helpful activity for those with anxiety and stress! It kind of is just a combination of many different anxiety-relieving techniques (exercise, deep breathing, and mindfulness). There are many different apps, books, classes, and websites you can use as a guide and help to do yoga. You can find what positions, locations, and situation are best for you. Doing yoga gives you a great opportunity to think about and reflect on your feelings and worries.

6. Spend time with loved ones (yes, even your furbabies)

Sometimes, all we need is a little love and reassurance in our lives to alleviate some of our anxieties. Spending time with your family, friends, and pets can help us to see and remember the good things we have in our lives. So many times, those of us with anxiety tend to seclude ourselves and that makes it easy to forget the good we have.

7. Drink more water

Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause feelings of anxiety. It can make you feel jittery and can be a cause for elevated heart rate. Drinking more water not only helps you physically (like hydrating your skin and body), but it can also do wonders for your mental health. When your body is unhealthy and unhappy, that can be a big factor in feelings of depression and anxiety.

8. Take a short nap

If you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious, sometimes it can do some good to just take a short 30-minute nap. Just give yourself some time to rest your mind and body and face the issue with a new focus and fresh thoughts.

9. Journal

Even though writing down your feelings, bad or good, can be helpful, when you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try focusing on the positive! Write down a few things that made you happy today or a few things that you're grateful for. Don't let yourself be bogged down by the negative.

10. Clean

This might not work for everybody, but I know that sometimes when I'm feeling restless or anxious, cleaning and decluttering can help clear my mind. Basically, it's just good to find something to put your focus on when your anxious thoughts feel like too much. Try to pick a task and focus on that until you're finished. You'll likely find, in the end, that you feel much better than before you started.

11. Listen to happy and soothing music

Listening to music is a BIG help to some people with anxiety. However, you need to be mindful of what you're listening to. Don't put on the breakup playlist you made when you were 13. Find happy or soothing songs and make yourself a playlist of songs with themes of positivity.

12. Don't bottle up your feelings

This might just be the most important advice I can give you when it comes to handling your anxiety. The worst thing that you can do is to suppress your feelings and try to force yourself to forget about them. Hiding or bottling up your feelings might help temporarily, but that will just make you feel worse in the end. Talk to someone or try one of the other methods I mentioned to face your anxiety, but don't pretend like it doesn't exist.

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