rethinking stress;in the eyes of a student

Rethinking Stress: In the Eyes of a Student – Part #1

Nourishment Vitality is excited to share a series of guest blogs from our international intern Brian Baretz from Tulane University New Orleans USA.  This week’s blog covers the ever-increasing important topic “Rethinking Stress: In the Eyes of a Student- part #1 TO-DO LIST MONSTERS”

We live in a world filled with overconsumption, easy access to stimuli, and limitless possibility. We take part in a society that promotes the indulgence of these stimuli – as a means to success. We are immersed in a culture whose values ultimately prioritize efficiency over appreciation and are surrounded by people who prioritize mass production, over caring about what it is you’re doing.

If you can relate to any of this, then you will find yourself in the most fun and hectic period in one’s life: College.

College is a time that is characterized by having lots of obligations in many different aspects of your life. You’re expected to do well in school, you want to have a fun and active social life, and you want to make sure you take care of yourself and don’t lose yourself in all the temptations. Having to balance all these areas of your life and taking on this new set of responsibilities can be a struggle, and you will inevitably find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or burned out at some points.

However, with all these expectations in our lives, we tend to fall victim to the obsessive nature that being exposed to countless forms of consumption and avenues of productivity may bring. We have so much we need to do on a day-to-day basis that we find ourselves constantly preoccupied with all of the tasks, we haven’t done yet. Even when we’re not doing the tasks, we are still thinking about them. Often, we spend way more time worrying about the tasks than actually doing them

We wildly overestimate the amount of work we have to do due to our incessant need to fixate on what hasn’t been completed yet, and as a result, we become obsessed with our goals, a slave to our schedules, or, as I like to call it, we become… “TO-DO LIST MONSTERS”

to do list monsters

Living Within Chaos

College life is designed to create mayhem with so many areas that require great time and attention. On top of having many responsibilities, there are also limitless possible distractions around us that can sway us at all times. There are always a million other ways we could spend our time that seem more appealing than what we’re currently doing. That being said, college is a learning curve where we learn by making mistakes. Our habits are a work in progress, and it’s easy to fall into careless routines. We tend to do everything in excessive, and usually unhealthy, amounts.

We do this in hopes of fulfilling our perceived expectations in every facet of our lives, along with flawed impulse control. We drink multiple cups of coffee and take stimulants to study for numerous hours. We then go out at night, have too much indulgence, and feel exhausted the next morning.

This isn’t the most sustainable way of living and is usually the root of most of the suffering college students have. However, it’s a good experience to learn how to responsibly manage your time and take accountability for your actions.

living with chaos

Always in a Rush…. To go Nowhere

We are constantly engaged with external stimuli, whether it’s through interacting, working, watching, etc. We spend so much time in this state that it starts to impair our ability to contemplate our actions and their effect on our emotions. We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day routine that it takes up a lot of our thought space and time, leaving us little room for self-reflection and self-care.

We are always subconsciously preoccupied with what we have to do next and our future plans. This behavior leads to this lingering feeling of unsettledness that makes us feel like something always needs to be changed about our current environment for us to be content. This feeling persists, contrary to our delusion that once we go to the next place or solve this current problem, is when we can finally have peace of mind. Even when we finally finish that paper or have an empty to-do list, this feeling doesn’t seem to fully dissipate, and if it does, it will return when another form of incompleteness takes shape.

always in a rush,nowhere to go

How it Happens

A positive reinforcement loop tends to form through this lifestyle, promoting the indulgence of more stimulation, which leads to more worry. We have obligations that use up lots of effort and mental energy, that afterward, we need a break from. We look for something that’s the complete opposite, activities that are effortless and will make us feel good. We look for what’s easiest, so we tend to gravitate toward unhealthier choices to help us relax.

However, what we’re doing isn’t combating the worry that came from that previous strenuous thing; in some cases, it actually adds to it. One example is that we rely on technology, for its convenience, to seek instantaneous relief. Doing this, however, further stimulates your brain. It adds more thoughts and gives us more mental material to contemplate or potentially worry about.

Even if it brings us pleasure in the short term, it has this subtle effect that generates more tendencies toward worrying and feelings of irritability. It further powers this loop of needing to be occupied or stimulated all the time, which is the main cause of these feelings of constant restlessness, anxiety, and craving. So a lot of the time, we use our tasks as a vehicle to satisfy these urges. We cling on to anything that will help us avoid that feeling of emptiness when there is nothing left to do or something left that is incomplete.

how it happens

Finding Balance in a World of Extremes

With all these challenges we have to face, how can we solve them? What can we do to help ourselves, and how much is in our power?

To be honest, I do not have the answers…

This is a problem I still struggle with massively, as I too am a victim of everything I just described. That is why rethinking stress: in the eyes of a student is such an important concept I am sharing. All I can do is spark some thought to help you further understand how this affects you.

What I can offer is what has worked best for me in hopes you can relate to it or use it as a means to help you figure out what will be best for you

● Awareness is always the first step; once you can see the causality of your actions and your habits, that’s a foundation on which you can build positive change.

● While working on something for long periods of time, like studying, remember to take breaks to allow your brain to reset and recharge.
● Everyone has the urge to do everything as fast as possible, but try adapting an approach to taking your time with whatever you’re doing so you can learn how to combat this persistent sense of urgency.
● After engaging in highly intensive or engaging tasks, try doing something that’s less stimulating or simple to help balance out your brain activity as opposed to something more intense that may keep your brain from getting the rest it needs
○ Like taking a walk, listening to music, or meeting friends
● Balance your busy schedules with purposeful “not doing”; set aside time in your day when you can take a break from the stream of constant action and the feeling of needing to act.
● Also note how often you feel the need to be occupied and how much your phone affects this, more on this later.
● There’s nothing wrong with the occasional binge, but overall, try to do things in moderation instead of extreme forms of consumption.
○ For example, only having a few beverages going out, or budgeting how long you study so you’re not studying for hours on end.

This ends the first part of my blog series, Rethinking Stress: In the Eyes of a Student.

The blog is for college students, written by a college student, aimed to contemplate different areas of the college experience. This blog evaluates how different aspects of life can cause stress and is told from the first-hand perspective of someone who is experiencing everything himself.

helping one's self is priority

For even more information on how to deal with topics such as stress and anxiety, holistic weight management, body image, and the importance of relationship stress and conflict, follow the link

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Blog written by Nourishment Vitality Intern Brian Baretz (Tulane University)

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LINK to blog #2 in the series -“Phones Control Us” 

LINK to blog #3 in the series -“Understanding our purpose”