With finals approaching, many of us are dealing with stress. Now that it’s crunch time, anything that can go wrong, will. This week, there’s a 99 percent chance you will scream, “What’s wrong with my computer!” a 90 percent chance you will lose your keys, an 85 percent chance you’ll miss your bus, an 80 percent chance of several bad hair days, a 70 percent chance that family will visit, a 60 percent chance you’ll gain weight, and a 100 percent chance these statistics were fabricated.
Battling the stress monster
With finals approaching, many of us are dealing with stress. Now that it’s crunch time, anything that can go wrong, will.
This week, there’s a 99 percent chance you will scream, “What’s wrong with my computer!” a 90 percent chance you will lose your keys, an 85 percent chance you’ll miss your bus, an 80 percent chance of several bad hair days, a 70 percent chance that family will visit, a 60 percent chance you’ll gain weight, and a 100 percent chance these statistics were fabricated.
The great stress monster is lurking around every corner. Are you ready?
It begins harmlessly enough. You find yourself stuck in a conversation with a classmate who is blissfully unaffected–one of those work-ahead-aholics who monopolizes class time with her endless personal musings until you fall out of your chair and kiss the linoleum. Whatever you do, don’t release your inner stress monster, don’t listen to her, and don’t respond back. Continue to bite your tongue until there’s no reason to plan dinner.
There is a bright side. That fascinating 14-page paper, those two mindless projects, and that 15 minute presentation will allow you to get everything done you’ve put off. The house will be cleaner, the bills will be sorted, and your clothes will be ironed. If you have a stronger than average will, a real penchant for goofing off, you will reach the 14,000th level of some video-game epic extravaganza played online with a bunch of dudes from New Zealand. You will ultimately come crashing back to reality when you find yourself screaming and pounding your fist:
“What the fuck is wrong with my computer!”
Despair not. Reasonable people will tell you reasonable things about managing stress. Don’t look at me. Just let your fingers do the typing. You know the magic word, “GOOGLE.” That is, if you still can. Alternatively, you can check out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Managing Stress and ponder mindlessly why you are holding a book–for idiots.
You’re no idiot, but you have a sneaking suspicion you’ve done something wrong. You should have studied more or prepared more, and now it might be too late. That’s no cause for self-loathing. Turn that loathing outward. Share the blame.
The first thing to do is name your stress monster. Pick a name of someone who has really pissed you off. If that doesn’t work, pick another name like, say, “Eric.” “Eric” is a nice, friendly, unthreatening name. See? Poof-all better.
Next, find some needles, swatches of cloth, stuffing and some thread. Feel free to be creative. With finals coming up, you’ve got all the time in the world. Once your doll is finished, it’s time to name it. For lack of a better name, let’s call it “Eric.” If “Eric” sounds too much like a Viking (Erik the Viking) and seems counter to your strong sense of school spirit, try changing the doll’s gender. Call her “Erica.” That’s better. Put away your craft supplies, but leave out the needles.
Alas, playing with dolls isn’t what it used to be. A few pokes and a jab, and you’re ready to move on. Clearly, the stress monster has yet to be vanquished. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Look inward. Study yourself in a mirror. Try not to focus on the stress zit at the tip of your nose. To pop or not to pop, that is the question. Is that facial hair on your chin?
If you feel yourself spiraling downward, have a beer. You have to write a paper, so it’s time to see what many great writers saw in alcohol. Google “Great Alcoholic Writers.” Unfortunate souls yielded include Hemingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald and Faulkner. Count your blessings. You live in Portland. If you want to become an alcoholic, you can do it with really great beer.
If the alcoholic writer image is too melodramatic for you, and you would rather your name did not come up at the end of a search for “Great Alcoholics,” healthier methods of handling stress are available. Thumbing through the Idiot’s book, a few pointers appear.
Breathe from a different place
Are you breathing from your chest or your diaphragm? Many people take shallow breaths from their chests. It is stress relieving to take deep rhythmic breaths from your diaphragm. Try deep breathing for its calming effects.
Meditation is free and easy. Focus on something, a sound, an image, even the flame of a candle. Empty your mind. Let your concerns drift away. Imagine them drifting off on happy little clouds, one by one, away. Some people repeat a word over and over. Others find that focusing on an image, or an object such as water or a candle helps them quiet their inner thoughts.
Walking can also be meditative. Focusing on the motion of your body and the rhythm of your steps can divert your mind from your thoughts. Picking a pleasant path and focusing on the scenery can go a long way toward relieving your stress.
Although not recommended for those with heart disease, raising the body’s temperature can reduce stress. Taking a hot shower, relaxing in a hot tub or a sauna can do wonders to break up that tension.
Dare to daydream
Close your eyes. Put your hand on your forehead or chest and imagine a pleasant scene. Think of your happy place. Focus on the details. Hear the details. Smell the details. Visualize. Touching your chest or forehead will help connect your body with the image. You’re on spring break with sand between your toes. Seagulls are attacking a tourist not too far away. His name is Eric.