On Wednesday, April 5, Nicole Cappiello, a doctoral intern at the counseling center, gave her presentation, titled “Stress and Procrastination,” in the Bumps Room of the Memorial Union.
The presentation was a casual discussion between Cappiello and spectators. They shared experiences and found common ground in the inevitable woes of academic stress.
As part of the “Feel Better Fast” series being planned by the counseling center, Cappiello covered common reasons for stress, positive and negative reactions to stress and healthy techniques for avoiding it all together.
“Feel Better Fast” is holding lectures through April. There are three left in the special topic series, including “Social Anxiety and Introversion,” “Diversity and Inclusion” and “Intro to Mindfulness.” The lectures will be held every Wednesday this month at 12:00 p.m. in the Bumps Room.
The word stress has various definitions, depending on the academic or professional field it is being used in. A biologist might focus on the neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain to understand the issue, but sociologists focus on society’s role in creating stress.
One surprising fact, Cappiello said, is that some stress is healthy. Stress has helped keep humans alive by triggering the “fight or flight” response in life threatening situations. Carolyn Aldwin suggested that the heightened emotions experienced during stress may enhance memory in her book “Stress, Coping, and Development: An Integrative Perspective.”
For college students, however, stress is an unpleasant gnawing sensation that seems to imprison one’s mind especially approaching deadlines and finals week. As suffocating as the weight of academics can feel, there is still hope.
Cappiello listed a few of the common reactions students have when faced with stress, such as doubting one’s confidence or experiencing depleted energy. She also mentioned how important it is to stay positive. “We forget that this is going to teach us valuable things for our future.”
One way to manage the stress is to avoid procrastination. A popular, but detrimental, coping mechanism is completely abandoning the effort, according to Cappiello. Students might also procrastinate by doing other daily life tasks such as laundry or cleaning. Cappiello suggested students ask themselves “what are the facts that it’s better to put it off? Can I make a small dent now?”
Cappiello also emphasized the effectiveness of “mindfulness,” a mental state achieved through focusing on the present time and place one finds oneself in. Mindfulness is often reached through daily practice and meditation.
In addition to their scheduled counseling meetings, the counseling center has provided a “do it yourself” page dedicated to stress reduction techniques. From this page, one can download stress relieving MP3s or read about several “stress reduction ideas.” The page says focusing on the way one breathes can help to reduce stress. When one is stressed their breathing is often constricted, leading to increased anxiety and muscle tension.
The page also suggests resting; either lying down, eyes closed, for two minutes to block out extra sensory stimuli, or taking a 20-30 minute power nap. Unfortunately, many adults struggle with sleep because of stress and then have worse stress because of lack of sleep, according to the American Psychological Association in what is referred to as the “sleep-stress cycle.” Approximately 43 percent of adults say stress has kept them awake at night, according to APA surveys.
One of the links on the counseling center website’s stress page suggests engaging in exercise or recreation. When one engages in exercise the brain’s stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are reduced, according to a Harvard Health publication.
These tips and many other resources, including the Mind Spa and UMaine Active Minds, are available to UMaine students. It’s often difficult to seek out help, but with end-of-semester pressures approaching, the counseling center urges students to do so.