Tag Archives: stress

But First, Take a Breath

By Yoko Fukumura

It’s finals season. Or it’s application season. Maybe it’s your first semester at college. Maybe it’s your last semester of school before you head off to the world.

No matter where you are in life, most of the time you probably have something big on your mind. And it’s not a bad thing – it means that you’re working hard and pushing yourself! But as important as it is to succeed and reach towards your goals, it is equally, if not more, important to be in tune with your mind and body.

As young adults sometimes we feel invincible. We think that we can eat cereal and instant noodles for weeks and pull all-nighters because self care can wait, but the test tomorrow will not wait. I’m also guilty of this and I can attest that this is false – I’ve done better when I prioritized eating and sleeping over studying on the last day. Even if our overworked immune system makes up for all the unhealthy choices momentarily, our physical and mental health might be taking a toll that ultimately affects your studies and future.

Doing well in school is not irrelevant, but your health will decide whether you do well, in school and after. These are a couple small things that I have found helpful along the way that don’t take up too much time.

First, you need to get to know yourself. If you don’t know your limits, it’s hard to plan ahead or know when to stop. We commend hard work, but we can’t keep working hard if we don’t know our limits. Writing a daily journal entry is one simple way to get to know yourself better, and it makes you tune in to your self at least briefly every day. If a blank paper isn’t enough structure for you, you could also get “Q&A a Day” at a bookstore or on Amazon.

Another big one for me was picking up an activity to do fairly consistently. In school, we have multiple deadlines and exams that have hard set dates and limited flexibility, but your hobbies and exercise are flexible. I try to exercise every day – nothing big, anything from ten minutes to thirty minutes on weekdays so that I don’t intimidate myself out of it. When I’m busy I can skip it without feeling guilty – it’s almost like tricking your mind and body so that when you have less time, you have surplus energy. One of the great resources of USC is the Recreational Sports program. There are many affordable fitness programs, from yoga and mindfulness to kickboxing. If you find group classes intimidating, there are 1-on-1 personal training and private session pilates/yoga as well. You can find more about the options here: https://sait.usc.edu/recsports/

Lastly, the easiest to do but also the easiest to forget, is to take deep breaths. Diaphragmatic breathing involves using the muscle between your lungs and abdominal area to breathe deeply (this youtube link explains and helps visualize the diaphragm), and one of our automatic reactions to stress is to take shallow breaths. Deep breathing has many lasting physiological effects, including inhibiting your body’s stress response. Stress affects not just your mind but your whole body, and too much of it can cause long term effects such as memory issues, high blood pressure, and migraines, among others. Breathing can be done anywhere – during class, on a bus, in your bed. It only takes a second, but you could feel better for the entire day, which affects your next day, week, and semester.

Your test tomorrow is important. But first, take a breath.

Yoko is a 1st year graduate student in USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. She is originally from Boston, Massachusetts where she studied piano performance at New England Conservatory of Music. Born to Japanese immigrant parents, Yoko is very familiar with both the challenges and beauties of cultural diversity. She is also an expert collaborator and teacher from her experience teaching piano and performing in ensembles.

 

USC Resources for Stress and Anxiety

By Stephanie Wicburg

As someone who has experienced instances of almost crippling anxiety in my life, I know that the avoidance of these issues in conversation is a fact.  Stress and anxiety are just not things that society addresses.  If someone wants to discuss them, it is often either with a professional, or not at all.

For me, the amount of preparation it takes to even do something as simple as making a phone call or socializing with people I don’t know is staggering.  And yet, through my years, I have learned to cope with this part of my life.  I have learned how to be able to function when I feel like I can’t breathe and how to push past it.

But imagine if I were put in a totally new environment.  An environment in which I knew barely anyone.  A place with a culture entirely different from my own, with a language that I do not natively speak.  I have personally never been in this situation, but all the students I have worked with through ALI’s Conversation Groups are experiencing this as I type.

A new place can be incredibly hard to adjust to. I know that it took me several weeks to adjust to USC when I first moved here just last August, and during those weeks, there were several moments when my anxiety took over, and it felt like every little thing was just absolutely overwhelming. Fortunately, however, I had friends and family who I could talk to, as well as an incredibly supportive roommate, and all of the coping methods which I have developed through the years.  These support systems are not something everyone has, however.  Not everyone is taught or is able to figure out ways to help their anxiety, and so stressful situations, such as moving to an entirely new country, can just be beyond overwhelming.

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This Midterm Season, Don’t Forget to Take a Break!

By Colette Au

As the first round of midterms reaches its peak, I find myself overwhelmed by my commitments. Again. It seems that every semester begins smoothly, but time management only helps so much to balance a life that, frankly, is overbooked.  As I learned in my gender studies class, Americans have the longest work week in the world. We can boast of our high GDP and standards of living compared to many other nations, but economic benefits come with hidden costs. This workaholic culture trickles down, and is especially concentrated at a university like USC. People who triple major, invest thirty hours a week e-boarding for several clubs, rushing and pledging in the Greek system, or work a full-time job alongside a full course load are our role models — the hard working ideal. Squeezing maximum productivity out of every day is the norm. Is this mindset of high-intensity social, academic, involvement helpful, or even sustainable in the long-term? Perhaps a dominant narrative negatively portrays a stereotypical American characteristic, rewarding effort without achievement, but I think there is an equally strong narrative that seeks to disrupt this view that Americans are lazy and entitled.

As an American-born Chinese (ABC), I grew up with Asian immigrant parents. Like many of their “tiger” counterparts, they stressed academic accomplishment, but unlike the tiger parent stereotypes, they told me I should also remember to take breaks and relax sometimes. However, in college, there is no one to remind me to put down my macroeconomics lecture slides and simply BE. As soon as I stop working, the guilt sets in. I don’t want to be a lazy and entitled American, I think. So I work harder and I overcommit. And when my laptop’s hard drive fails and I succumb to a bad cold that takes me out of class for a week, my self worth disappears along with my rigid work schedule. Lying in bed with used tissues and a glass of hot tea, I realized how easily my world was reduced to my Google Calendar’s events and task list in the semester’s first four weeks. I had become my commitments. My long-distance relationship was suffering because I was in club meetings, attending lectures, or working for most of my days. This is not what I envisioned for myself, but slipping into the “work hard, play hard” culture that permeates this campus is extremely tempting.

Continue reading This Midterm Season, Don’t Forget to Take a Break!