Take time to look around

Nicole Robinson

Stress. A simple word that conveys what the majority of college students experience in every minute of every day of our lives.

Classes, exams, jobs, organizations, sports teams and clubs, as well as maintaining a social life, are just a handful of the things we face everyday.

To this day, I am amazed at what we can miss when we are rushing off to try to accomplish a million things in 24 hours.

This is expected in a college setting, but too much stress can wear on your body and your mind.

Up until this last month, I would go to bed stressed out and wake up the same way.

Often, upon waking up, I would have knots in my shoulders, intense headaches, and I just felt sick.

Now, I am in no way qualified to give out any medical advice, but even I know that this is unhealthy.

And this is college stress. After graduation and once you are in your choice of profession, your stress level skyrockets.

The American Psychological Association reported that lack of exercise, bad eating habits, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are several of the ways our bodies react to job-related stress.

The APA also reported that this can lead to burnout, which, in turn, can lead to depression.

I am not writing this column to complain about how busy I am, but rather to point out that we as students and faculty need to take out some time for ourselves once in a while and enjoy what we have in order to maintain a healthy, happy lifestyle.

While I was out celebrating a friend’s birthday a few days ago, I met a guy from England. I studied abroad at Harlaxton in the spring of 2004, and so we got to talking about the differences between British and American cultures.

One thing that really stuck with me was our discussion of leisure time.

The gist of the conversation was that we as Americans do not take time out to enjoy what we have. Now, I love America, but after being in Europe and seeing what their work hours are, I have to agree. They seem genuinely happy. Stressed, yes, but not to the extent that we are.

We literally are working ourselves to death.

As the standard of living and work hours increase, we are seeing more and more individuals with stress levels that are far above healthy standards.

With the technological advances of today, such as cell phones, beepers and fax machines, we can be reached no matter where we are at any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long.

And for what?

When will we say enough is enough? There are certain times that I am, believe it or not, unreachable.

The American Institute of Stress reported that more stress costs businesses in this country $300 billion annually. It also stated that more than one million employees miss work each day due to stress.

The American Academy of Family Physicians reported that stress-related symptoms made up two- thirds of all visits to family physicians.

Last month when I went home, my parents mentioned how stressed I seemed to be and how unhealthy I looked. Now I knew that this was partially because I hadn’t eaten properly or gotten enough sleep in several days.

My family and I were relaxing after dinner. We had put a movie on and after the first 10 minutes, my folks asked me what was wrong. I replied that nothing was.

They then asked why I couldn’t stop moving around and looking stressed.

I hadn’t thought about it, but I was so used to doing homework and planning my schedule for the next week whenever I would watch a movie in Eau Claire.

That was when I realized that I had to take a step back, begin to loosen up and enjoy the little things around me.

The next time they saw me, they both commented on how much healthier and happier I appeared to be.

A month ago, for the first time all semester, I walked home from class and noticed the colors of the leaves on the trees. The brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and browns glistened and the air was cool and crisp. My cell phone was turned off and I took my time walking home.

It was by far the most pleasant walk home that I had experienced all semester.

To this day, I am amazed at what we can miss when we are rushing off to try to accomplish a million things in 24 hours.

Here is a newsflash for everyone, including myself: We cannot do everything that we want to get done in that time frame. It is impossible.

By planning ahead, we as students can reduce this small bit of stress.

I challenge you to take a step back and look at your schedule. Write down everything that you have done this week. Keep a calendar, and schedule in time for yourself. Yes, you read correctly. I myself actually have it written in my calendar when I am taking time to relax.

College is designed to be intense, as it should be for helping us get ready for the real world. But we should also try to take a little bit of time for ourselves. Whether that time is 10 minutes or three hours is purely up to you.

So shut off the cell phone, and walk away from the computer.

Take a nap, play cards or watch TV after a productive day.

We as students need to learn how to manage stress now in order to help us when we are entering new jobs.

I know I cannot deny the inevitable, which is that with any job I accept comes stress. A job relating to journalism, with odd hours and late deadlines, is plagued with stress. The key is to be able to find time after work for something fun and relaxing.

At the same time, with learning to manage my stress now and taking a little time out to enjoy the little pleasures of life, I am hoping to better prepare myself for the future.

Are you willing to accept that challenge?

Werlein is a senior print journalism major and a copy editor of The Spectator.