Got Stress?

Stress is a major part of our college lives. As college students, we stress about school, work, finances, food, social gatherings, family events, and the process of balancing it all out. Stress can be really unhealthy when it persists for an extended amount of time. Chronic stress can harm our sleep patterns, immune systems, and digestive processes (National Institute of Mental Health). For this reason, it’s extremely important to find ways to relieve that stress. Even if we have something going on every hour of every day, we need to find time to give ourselves a break.

I myself came to the realization of my workload and stress level last semester when I became engrossed in homework every single day and rarely did anything but go to class, go to work, read numerous books, and write extensive essays. During this time, I explored several different ways to relieve my stress which could benefit anyone experiencing a similar situation.

One way to relieve stress is reading. It’s a great way to escape reality for a bit. We can get involved in another story rather than our own. Whether it be poetry, fantasy, history, or dramas, reading forces us to focus on that idea instead of the things that give us stress. However, maybe you’re tired of reading. Maybe you’ve simply read too many books to be able to enjoy reading right now.

Instead of reading, you could try writing. I know, I know. “But I’ve just finished writing three 2-5 page essays!” you may say. Well, writing about our passions is loads more fun than writing academic essays for school. Trust me. Writing can help us focus on something specific and get our minds off whatever has been bothering us or stressing us out. For example, composing poetry can hone our senses on certain details about objects, people, or ideas. If poetry is a little out of your comfort zone (as it is for me), fictional writing is a good alternative. Much like reading, writing fiction can immerse us in another world, but this world is our own. Through fictional writing, we can create an entire world full of interesting characters and stories and use it as a temporary escape from reality.

However, if your enjoyment does not reside in writing, maybe you’d prefer something a little more artsy. Sketching, drawing, or painting can be considered leisurely activities, which may sound fun and peaceful to you. But my personal favorite type of art is coloring. It may sound silly, but coloring is a great way to relieve stress. It’s such a calming and pleasant exercise. It reminds me of the simplest time of my life: kindergarten, when the most difficult decision was deciding which crayon or marker to use. I think we as stressed out college students need to revert back once in a while to those more manageable stages of our lives in order to stay sane. So don’t feel awkward about going to the store to buy a coloring book and some colored crayons or pencils. I myself have to buy a new coloring book and some newly sharpened pencils every now and then.

One of the easiest things that I have done in order to reduce the stress in my life is simply taking a walk. Last semester when I was drowning in school work, I took up to an hour to walk around the DBU campus once a week. It may not sound like much, but it helped me out a lot. It gave me time to clear my head and get my thoughts in order. It was hard at first, forcing myself to do nothing when I knew that I had so much to do. But eventually, I came to love it and couldn’t go a week without taking my evening stroll.

I know that you may feel as if you do not have any time during any day of any week to take a break. But I implore you to make time for it. It doesn’t have to be every day; your break could be only a couple times a week. It doesn’t matter. What matters is your state of mind. Don’t let the stress of life consume all of your thoughts. Sit in your bed and read a chapter of that book that’s been on your reading list forever. Chill out on the couch and color while you listen to your favorite tunes for half an hour. Take a leisurely walk around the block. If you have time to stress, then you should make time for relaxation.

“5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health, 2018. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

Written by Taylor Hayes

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Letter to the Meandering Writer

Dear Meandering Writer,

Before we go any farther, please don’t be concerned that I had to Google a definition for the word “meander.” I promise I’m qualified for my job. Really, I am. You can’t judge me too much because I bet you don’t know how to define “meandering writer,” either. According to a conglomerate of online dictionaries, “to meander” basically means to take an unnecessarily indirect or aimless journey. In the world of writing, this is the author who loses his or her audience by going off on an irrelevant tangent or taking too long to get to a clear point. In my experience, meandering writers are the ones who have the best ideas and most well-conducted research, but simply lack the structure to tie everything together into a nice, neat, presentable package.

Some might argue that meandering isn’t really a big issue to worry about, but the reality is, a wandering paper fails to show the intelligence and understanding of a skilled student because it does not clearly communicate with the audience. Every once in a while, meandering does pay off—just ask Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Their proposed 25 essay project, known as the Federalist Papers, turned into 85 essays that took 6 months to complete. In the end, they eventually made their point: the Constitution of the United States is a document worthy of the full support of the states. If you enjoy being an American with free speech and a representative government, thank Hamilton and Madison for meandering around their topic, but unless you’re writing to define the direction of a new nation and establish a democracy, it’s probably best to stay on topic and to the point.

I know. That is easier said than done.

Here are a few things that may help prevent your essay from turning into a second edition of the Federalist Papers.

  1. Your paper is a tree, so avoid twigs. Every single point made within a paper either needs to support the thesis directly or directly support something that directly supports the thesis. (Is that as clear as mud?) In other words, your thesis is like the trunk of a tree. The limbs are your direct support because they connect immediately to the trunk. Branches are necessary secondary evidence for the direct support found in the limbs. Anything past the branches are flimsy twigs that barely link to the trunk. Chances are, these weak arguments can be pruned from your paper in exchange for a stronger, more straightforward essay.word tree
  2. Keep your thesis visible. The farther you get from the introduction, the harder it is to remember exactly what your thesis is claiming. This is especially true when you’re looking at a page count that extends into double digits. Write your thesis down on paper and refer back to it at every new paragraph and every time you get stuck. If you prefer to write your thesis after you’ve finished the rest of your paper (this is a great strategy!), go ahead and jot down a working thesis anyway. It never hurts to have a roadmap handy, even if you plan on changing your route.
  3. Don’t delete stray sentences; save them for later. Nothing is more painful than composing a beautiful sentence, paragraph, or page, only to realize it is not necessary for the paper. Unfortunately, this is a natural part of the writing process. Never keep something that distracts from the thesis of your paper, but don’t assume that just because something doesn’t fit in one paper that it might not fit in another. If you find yourself consistently writing and removing eloquent passages, the kind you wish you professor could actually see, create a document where you can save your meandering words for later. That way, none of your work is ever really in vain, and if you ever find yourself stuck for ideas or brilliant sentence structure, you’ll know where to start.

And of course, it goes without saying that you should always bring your paper to the Writing Center! We all know what it’s like to have more thoughts, sources, and ideas than space in an essay, and we’ve all struggled at one time or another to stick to a thesis. Nothing helps guide a meandering writer quite like a fellow student who has walked the same, winding path.

Written by Savanna

Image credits: Header image, Tree Outline (words added by author)

Hope and Sickness

Have you ever been so sick that you were confined to bed-rest?

I have. That’s where I was for an eternity and a half. I laughed; I cried. I went crazy, Bob. To be completely honest, I didn’t even stay in bed for the entire month I was supposed to rest; as soon as I felt better (the first week) I returned to normal life with a passion I haven’t felt for a long time. I even looked forward to work, and no healthy American would ever admit that. I was curious to figure out why my enthusiasm was much greater than usual, and it got me thinking about several topics, the most prominent of all being hope.

First, why is the day-to-day life dreaded? I suppose, if you aren’t as lucky as we are at the Writing Center, your boss might drive you crazy. Maybe your classes bore you, or maybe your professor is a psychopath who thinks the students are all his guinea pigs. After weeks, months, or even years of this treatment, plus all the other things like family and friends and humans being annoying, we start believing that tomorrow isn’t going to be a good day. Tomorrow, in fact, starts looking like a putrid pile of pure pain.

That sort of thinking, as easy as it is to fall into, is very dangerous.

Let’s look back to when I was confined to bed. All the days blur together for me. Basically, I didn’t want to go sleep. I didn’t want to wake up. I didn’t want to eat, or drink, or exist. I lost pretty much all hope that I could get better, because I was so caught up in the pain. I focused too much on everything that had gone wrong. Losing hope that our everyday lives can be wonderful is similar to being sick. I’d call it worse, since it can’t be diagnosed as easily as a physical symptom. Losing hope is like losing faith in God. He wants what is good for us; why can’t that look like a good day? (Yeah, I mean every day. But that’s another blog post.) Sometimes, I pretend that losing hope is smart because God isn’t a vending machine, and He doesn’t promise flowers and happiness and loads of money to His followers. But He does promise Himself. And He is very, very good, indeed.

Ever since I was diagnosed with chronic depression last winter, I end up relating most of my thoughts to my fight with this mental illness. (Suffer, my poor readers!) Hope is, by far, one of the most useful skills to develop when fighting things like anxiety and depression.  I say it’s a skill because it takes discipline to look at the world, circumstances, and others in a positive light and tell yourself to think well of these things. Negative thinking literally shapes your brain; negative thought breeds negative emotion, and negative emotion causes the brain to produce certain chemicals. In the same way, positive thinking can help a body function correctly. But not stupid thinking: the best kind of positive thinking is realistic and rooted in truth. Just because chocolate is positive doesn’t mean one can eat a truckload of it. That’s even worse for the body.

We still don’t know much about the brain. A lot of it is a mystery. But what we do know is that it’s an incredibly complicated thing. If we think, and look closely enough at anything, it’s extremely complex. The atoms that form molecules which bond together to form everything are complicated. I can’t even list half the periodic table, and those atoms can come together to make an infinitely more lengthy list of molecules. And these molecules bond together to form an infinitely more lengthy list of things. Look at your hand. Every cell in your body was intelligently crafted, beautifully made slowly over the years into what it is now. God knows where it all came from and how it was made. He was there at the beginning, and He will be there at the end. Like the Bible says: if we know how to give good gifts, as corrupted as our hearts are, imagine how much more does He!

So even when the body fails, don’t forget hope. It is a joy to be able to work and to be able to do productive things. Creation is beautiful, and we get to be part of it. It’s a miracle we exist. “There’s good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for!” It’s worth enjoying, and praising the One who made it.

Written by Isaac

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