On the first day of class, I read the course syllabus to search for the scheduled exam dates. I delayed my thoughts on the midterm until I realized that spring break is in a few short weeks. This fast-approaching date consumes me to a point where I wish time would stop.

It’s sad to say that I sometimes spend more energy worrying about an assignment than I do preparing for the assignment. But I know I am not alone on this island called “stress.”

We generally consider stress to be a physical or emotional response to anything that poses a threat to our well-being. Positive stress is exciting, but its negative form is far more challenging to cope with.

The originator of the term “stress,” Hans Selye, once told reporters, “Everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows.” In other words, the term “stress” is hard to define because we experience it in different ways.

Stress from school and work is all too real. Pressures to take on heavy workloads and expectations to excel in these courses contribute to mental fatigue and poor sleeping schedules. Ask almost any college student, and they will tell you it is challenging to plan for midterms. In the classroom, we are stressed out even before we begin an assignment. And when it comes to exam times, the psychological burden of work can seem too much to manage.

If you suffer from stress or anxiety, trust me when I say — you are not alone. According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment, 30 percent of students reported stress and 21.9 percent of students reported anxiety as negative factors affecting their academic performance. But, though it is no small task, there are strategies to help you handle your stress levels.

A recent publication of the Harvard Health Letter suggests methods to elicit relaxation responses and reverse stress-related health problems. Their recommendations are simple and easy to do: Focus on slow, deep breaths. Concentrate on one part of the body and imagine you are releasing tensions from this area, repeat on a different body part. Create a soothing scene in your mind that makes you relax. Repeat a favorite prayer from your faith.

At this moment you might ask: What does the university recommend for dealing with stress? Thankfully, Elon University has resources available to us. If you are in need of additional support, you can make an appointment with Counseling Services. They will provide you with appropriate tools to manage your stress or anxieties. If you find someone in a stressful situation, lend a helping hand. It is no secret that in difficult times, we work best when we work together.

So, please, breathe in deep and take some time off in the calm before the “exam storm.” Your studies are important but, don’t sacrifice your mental and physical health for a grade. Try to engage in activities that excite you in between study breaks.

For example, watching movies or engaging in cardiovascular activities help me decompress. Taking a study break will not only help you relax but also help you re-energize for your next study session.

Throughout this busy season, commit to memory the Swahili phrase, “Hakuna Matata,” which roughly translates to “no worries.” The popular Lion King reference is slightly comical in song lyric, but is truly a great message to anyone dealing with internal and external pressures to perform in social, academic or workplace settings.

Of course, I know a Disney movie will not solve all your study problems, but it will help you relax. Keep in mind that the exam dates will pass. And your high stress will, too.

So no matter the difficulties you face, remember: “Hakuna Matata.”


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