Stress-busting strategies for the over-burdened mind

With a semester of college under their belt, first-year students have made adjustments to handle the whirlwind of changes Vassar life brings. Still, stress levels can be tough to navigate, especially with course load, extracurriculars and work ethic. For freshmen, taking the time to step back and find a way to relax is key.

Rating her first semester stress level at a six out of 10, Anna Beeman ’18 explained why she felt so overwhelmed. “I was taking a full course load, plus ballet, plus VRDT, so I definitely had to be good with time management and organization.”

She continued, explaining, “My classes were definitely challenging, but I felt I had a good grip on them if I had thoughtfully done my work.”

Powering through a course load doesn’t come easy for all freshmen, particularly when the amount of work seems endless, as is the case for Ultimate Frisbee player and member of the Food Committee Sophie Deixel ’18.

In an emailed statement, she wrote, “I’m definitely someone who easily gets stressed out and overwhelmed, but it also had to do with the classes I chose (all very reading and writing heavy).”

Connor McIlwain ’18 agreed, adding, “My classes weren’t particularly hard, but had a ton of reading and writing, so when deadlines overlapped, it got really stressful.”

To combat stressful activity, Beeman found an outlet in a half-credit ballet class. There, she found a way to relax and let her brain decompress from daily concerns.

Beeman said, “Ballet class helps me de-stress the most, mostly because it takes my mind off of everything happening in my life. I have been trained my whole life to only focus on my technique and devote 100 percent of my concentration to the specified one-and-a-half hours.”

While discovering a method to unwind is personal and varies from one student to the next, physically tends to be a common thread—whether it be dancing, taking a course offered at the gym or just walking around outside.

For McIlwain, any fun time must wait until after he finishes his assignments. Once that happens, he makes use of the campus. He said, “I usually go for a run and listen to some music, and then if there’s time left I’ll watch Netflix.”

Deixel agreed pursuing an athletic endeavor has been useful for her. However, with rigorous exercise, a need for adequate rest and relaxation arises.

She wrote, “Exercise definitely helps de-stress me, but the best thing for me is just sleep. If I’m tired, I really don’t function well and will get way more stressed out than I need to, so I’ve definitely learned to prioritize sleep.”

The weather outside might not be the most appealing for some students, but for Delphine Douglas ’18, any time spent in the fresh air is better than none.

She said, “I like to make sure I go outside a little every day. I think the light and nature is positive.”

Exercise is only one tool a student could use to combat stress levels. Relaxation is about self-care, according to Bea Land ’18.

He commented, “I think it is important for me to keep up with my family and friends from home. Ideally, I think writing in a journal is good for self-care, but I find that I don’t actually do that as often as I would hope.”

McIlwain noted, “Alone time is really important for self-care. Just going for a walk once in a while or giving yourself a few minutes to think and process things really helps. I think the opposite is important, too.”

He continued, “Sometimes it really helps me to be around other people and talk and be social. It kind of forces you to process your emotions in a socially-acceptable way.”

Vassar often plans events with de-stressing students in mind, such as putting a bouncy house in the College Center during finals or having dogs visit.

Additionally, each house holds weekly events for students to have snacks, socialize and participate in fun activities. McIlwain commented that these planned events don’t necessarily tackle the issue at hand. He said, “They’re more of a distraction than a solution.”

Though they might not always succeed in fully distracting students from their homework, they’re usually a welcome mental break. Deixel wrote, “I actually really like the study breaks that house team organizes. It’s really nice to just take an hour once a week and just try to forget about all the stuff you have to do.”

Beeman concluded, “Other than ballet, having dinner with my friends at the end of the day always helps me remember that I have a support system and talking about other people’s days or experiences reminds me that my life is not the only life.”

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