FALL, 2002

More on food, and genes, and .... STRESS

Name:  Chelsea
Subject:  Emily Dickinson
Date:  2002-11-18 15:50:43
Message Id:  3780
Thinking about emotions, and feeling overwhelmed and helpless and stuff in general, I remembered two little poems I read once that I thought I'd share for anyone else who is feeling the same.

"It's all I have to bring to-day,
This, and my heart besides,
This, and my heart, and all the fields,
And all the meadows wide.
Be sure you count, should I forget,-
Some one the sun could tell,-
This, and my heart, and all the bees
Which in the clover dwell."


"If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain."

-Emily Dickinson

Name:  Heather
Subject:  sleep deprivation
Date:  2002-11-18 21:44:19
Message Id:  3784
As the semester goes on I feel (okay, so really I know) that I get less and less sleep. And I'm always torn between going to bed and hoping my work will go faster tomorrow, and staying up all night trying to get it all done, no matter how slow. After awhile the second always seems to win because, honestly, I don't think it would be possible for me to ever really catch up on enough sleep to be REALLY productive. But I started thinking about this in connection with what we've been talking about in the forum with emotions and all. I know Bryn Mawr is a really stressful place, and we all do more homework than any three normal people really should have to, but do you think that, perhaps, our bad sleeping habits proport this? I mean, yea, they always make it worse. After any all nighter, I always find myself either really mean or (usually) really loopy come morning. But I think that this sleep deprivation that we put ourselves through contributes to the fact that most of us have a very hard time dealing with our emotions. Freshman year, my friend had a post-it note above her computer that said, "Work, Social Life, Sleep: Pick Two." Here, that's almost not funny because it's so true, but maybe if we picked up a little more of the third, the other two would run a lot smoother. Not that I can talk really, I've only gotten 2 hours of sleep a night lately, but it's still a good thought... ha ha.
Name:  Laura Bang!
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  sleep...
Date:  2002-11-20 15:27:06
Message Id:  3818
Thanks for sharing the neat poems, Chelsea!

And on the subject of sleep vs. work vs. social life, I am able to adequately balance all three. I try to get the same amount of sleep every night (about 7 or 8 hours) because that is really important in keeping you alert and healthy. As for work, I do my homework sporadically so that when I get sick of it I can spare 15 to 30 minutes (depending on how productive I've been) to do something for me every few hours, whether that's hanging out with my friends, or reading a book for fun, or going for a walk, or whatever I feel like doing. We all have a lot of work, but if you actually set aside time for yourself to be productive, you can definitely make room for some fun. I readily admit that I am not a social butterfly, I don't particularly like going to parties and stuff, but I make time for watching movie or just hanging out with my friends.

No matter what, you've got to make time for everything. If you don't, you will definitely suffer for it. Last year I had a lot more trouble with stress and since I had a history of a back problem, stress made it worse. (Let me tell you, you never want to injure your back -- it sucks!) Last year, I didn't really make the effort to balance everything and as a result I didn't have enough fun time for myself -- and fun time is just as important as sleep to your health, particularly your mental health. I know it's hard to balance everything, but I also know it is possible. So stop stressing so much and work in some fun time into your schedule. Good luck with whatever you have to do.

Name:  Diana La Femina
Subject:  stress?
Date:  2002-11-20 16:12:39
Message Id:  3822
Reading the comments posted thus far a question, or rather a situation, comes to mind. I'm not really sure if it's stress-related.

Why are most people afraid to take chances? Seriously, why is there something that creates that flight-or-fight feeling when you talk to the person you're interested in, or that holds you back from saying something because you think people will laugh at you? Everyone gets this, no one is immune. Not saying something and similar situationsI can understand a little, society has bred us a certain way. But what about something seemingly harmless, like saying hello to someone you like? Situations like that, where it's just you and not anything society has tempered you with, why do they cause flight-or-fight feelings?

To me, this is more stressful than anything. Work, I can deal with. Tests, papers, they'll all end eventually, they aren't my life and they won't determine what happens to me drastically. These situations...they shape who we are and what we do, what experiences we have. But for the life of me, I can't really figure out why they matter.

Name:  Wilfred Franklin
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Response to Diana's "stress"
Date:  2002-11-20 16:48:52
Message Id:  3823
Diana's comments remind me of a line from a John Lenon song, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." I find this idea has resonance within science as well. Often the most interesting discoveries come when investigating something quite unrelated. I guess my point is... it is good to take action in the face of fear, ridicule and failure - chances are (like Diana says) it won't really matter in the long run. What really matters is what happens when your too busy "stressing."
Name:  Diana La Femina
Subject:  black holes
Date:  2002-11-20 22:09:02
Message Id:  3830
Thought everyone might find this story interesting:

Name:  Annie Sullivan
Subject:  on stress
Date:  2002-11-22 09:59:49
Message Id:  3843
I think everyone's comments ring true--especially at this point of the academic year, when we are just beginning to see "the end" of the semester. Too many of us bury ourselves in work, feeling guilty when we decide to do something which is not work-related. You all know it--we call it the "Bryn Mawr Syndrome" (probably the same at Haverford). Anyway, poor sleeping habits; are perhaps the key symptoms, and as we all seem to agree, the disadvantages of sleep deprivation seem to outweigh any benefits. I think this kind of behavior (staying up all night doing work and not finding enough time to relax or have fun) can easily become somewhat of a cycle that is exceedingly difficult to break. Human beings are creatures of habit; we like routine and predictability. Once we start accepting this kind of behavior as "normal," it becomes more difficult and uncomfortable to relax. I don't know what the exact solution to the "work load" or stress problem is, but I think Bryn Mawr would be a much happier place if we all put more value on "fun" or just simply relaxation. In doing so, I think we would all find a positive change in not only ourselves, but in the quality our work as well.
Name:  Good Will Hunting
Subject:  Me and the Apes
Date:  2002-11-22 15:31:55
Message Id:  3846
Humans and monkeys (chimpanzees I believe) share 98.6% of the same DNA sequence, pretty much meaning we're almost identical in genetic code. But we obviously don't look the same, or at least not 98.6% the same. Learning about activation proteins that turn certain genes on and off has made this statistic more understandable. If we've got 98.6% of the same genetic make up, we don't necessarily express the same parts of that code, so we could actually only be expressing something like 90% of the same DNA. This isn't really the way that evolution works, but it seems like an alternative almost. If we evolved from monkeys, or pre-monkeys, maybe they shared almost the same genetic make up that we have today, but expressed different traits.
Name:  kathryn bailey
Date:  2002-11-22 19:53:49
Message Id:  3850
I completely agree with Annie about being too involved in our work. It is unfortunate that Bryn Mawr, and many other colleges, seem to breed an expectation that students have to be crazed workaholics, even at the cost of physical, emotional, and social health. It should never be "normal" to spend 8 hours a day on homework, or to stay up the entire night writing a paper. I realize that school is important to us all, but why should sacrifice our sanity just to get good grades or to pass a class?
Name:  Stephanie Lane
Date:  2002-11-22 22:53:06
Message Id:  3851
This brings up a lab from the week before, but I'm puzzling (dwelling, rather) over it still.

In the Fly Lab, we learned, among other things, how certain genetic traits are passed on and how you can predict them through the Punnett squares. While I know that the stuff we were working with is sort of based on some really basic Mendelian principles,and we certainly didn't cover the behavior of all genes, I kept thinking about how it relates to ourselves and our own genetic traits that were passed on from our parents.

The thing thats bothering me is this: When genes were passed on to offspring in the flies, the parents' traits were never "mixed"; for instance, a mother's yellow eye was never mixed with a father's red eye to make an orange eye. The traits were passed on as a whole so that the offspring either had red eyes or yellow eyes. However, this doesn't happen with humans and skin color. When, for example, a black mother and white father have a child, it is never either black or white, the skin color is a mixture of both. It seems way too unlikely, but does this actually mean that the genes are "mixing"? What's going on here? I feel like an idiot asking this but I really don't know the answer. Anyone?

Name:  Laura Silvius
Subject:  The importance of living
Date:  2002-11-23 13:22:23
Message Id:  3854
My first comment in like 3 weeks! I know I suck but I've been fluctuating between a fever of 102 and a really big cold. I'm getting better (really!) and this whole thing got me thinking - people seem to get sicker as the semester goes on! Why is that? Do people just take less and less care of themselves? Or is it the cold weather? Or more work, and therefore less brain space to remind you to dress warm? What is it? More stress equals less health? ACK!
Name:  heidi
Username:  Anonymous
Date:  2002-11-23 22:12:04
Message Id:  3856
In response to Laura's issue of whether or not stress and physical health are related, I would agree that they are. I remember learning in Psychology (this is high school psychology mind you so let there be no confusion about the inarticulate language) that stress weakens the antibodies in the body that are vital for physical health. Therefore, to keep yourself mentally healthy will do more for you than you may think. If anyone has anymore coherent information ön this topic please feel free to add.
Name:  Catherine Rhy
Date:  2002-11-24 02:24:37
Message Id:  3857
I have always had trouble balancing out work and play. My parents always tell me to play hard but work hard too; it's just that I always do one or the other. Playing hard makes me stress about work, so I decided to just take on work this year. If anyone wants to read about my experiment in work without [much] play, you can read my article on Anyway, basically, I do my work right after classes and I try to go to sleep every night between 12 and 1, and get up around 6:30 or 7. I feel like having a routine helps me feel refreshed every morning, and less stressed. Laura, you may want to try that... Also, I think that although stress from academics factors in a lot when it comes to physical health, there are other situations, like the dorm environment, that cause sickness.
Name:  Mer
Username:  mstoll
Date:  2002-11-24 10:42:26
Message Id:  3858
In thinking about stress, I realized that much of the stress that we all in the bi-co complain about is self-created. We all cannot deal with not putting forth our best efforts. Is this such a bad thing? We are all in a sense perfectionists, and while we try to balance sleep, work, and having fun, all in all it is our own decisions that often create stress. I am not saying that BMC and HC are not hard - they are - but that the students on campus need to realize that in four years, it is the skills that you have learned (academic, social, etc.) and not that one paper your wrote that kept you up all night that is of the most importance. College is about bettering the mind AND soul, not just getting good grades.
Name:  Adrienne
Subject:  The Benefits of Sleep
Date:  2002-11-24 13:43:48
Message Id:  3860
It's nice to actually see someone who leads a balanced life here, Laura. I agree with you on the importance of getting sleep and doing things for yourself. The amount of sleep you get per night is not only important for your productivity, it's an integral part of your health, as well. Doing things for yourself is just as important for your health, your mental health, that is. I had a professor say to our class once, "You're setting precident for your whole life here, live a little." I think that's great advice.
Name:  Diana DiMuro
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Milk does a body Good?
Date:  2002-11-24 22:41:36
Message Id:  3867
So I'm eating some oreos with my friends and I get a craving for a glass of milk. No problem right? Except usually when I drink a glass of milk I want to lay down on the floor because I feel like I'm going to die. I'm pretty lactose intolerant. I never used to understand why I could eat ice cream all summer long but one glass of milk sent me reeling. I looked around on the internet and I found out some interesting facts about lactose intolerancy:

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest significant amounts of lactose, the predominant sugar of milk. This inability results from a shortage of the enzyme lactase, which is normally produced by the cells that line the small intestine. Lactase breaks down milk sugar into simpler forms that can then be absorbed into the bloodstream.

I found out that while a glass of milk contains 11 grams of lactase, a serving of ice cream contains about half that amount in lactase. Foods with a higher fat content usually contain less lactase. So while skim milk may kill your stomach, cheeses or ice cream or cream may not affect someone who is lactose intolerant so badly.
Although milk and foods made from milk are the only natural sources, lactose is often added to prepared foods. People with very low tolerance for lactose should know about the many food products that may contain lactose, even in small amounts. Food products that may contain lactose include:

bread and other baked goods
processed breakfast cereals
instant potatoes, soups, and breakfast drinks
lunch meats (other than kosher)
salad dressings
candies and other snacks
mixes for pancakes, biscuits, and cookies

There are still plenty of foods you can eat if you want to get calcium and not worry about lactase like: oranges, green vegetables, beans and soy, or even lots of kinds of fish.

Name:  Erin Myers
Subject:  more on sleep
Date:  2002-11-24 23:09:52
Message Id:  3868

Thursday and Friday were one day for me. My all-nighter turned into a 39 hour day. I mention this not only to brag but also to talk about sleep deprivation and its impact of the biological systems of the human body. One thing I noticed, but I don't know how to address, is the second wind phenomenon I observed around my 24th hour awake. Suddenly I wasn't dead tired anymore. I wasn't fully alert but I was wide awake, the way I think being on speed must feel (not a good feeling -- DON'T DO DRUGS!).

Anyhoo, about the effects of sleep deprivation on health. . . Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system. Sleep deprivation also causes stress which in turn weakens the immune system--two strikes for the immune system. In additon to effects on the immune system, a reduced capacity for metabolic functions has been observed as have memory difficulties, poor performance at work, and problems concentrating. It seems that sleep deprevation just slows everything down making your whole body less efficient. Ironically, you probably stayed up late trying to increase efficiency.

I couldn't find as much info as I would have liked on the biological rather than psychological effects of sleep deprivation, but there was a good web paper from 2000 and this article was mediocre and very general.

Name:  Sarah
Username:  stan@bmc
Date:  2002-11-25 03:18:47
Message Id:  3872
In regard to Erin's comment about her 39 hour day, I was thinking that one of the contributing factors to stress on this campus is this perverse pride that a lot of Mawrters have in how much they suffer for their studies. There is a definite sense of accomplishment in telling other people how little sleep we've gotten or how long it's been since we last slept. And why is it "better" that someone has seven papers due in a week as opposed to five? Maybe Bryn Mawr isn't necessarily competitive in terms of grades, but there's definitely competition in vying over who has more work to do in the shortest period of time. It's almost like people under the most stress get admiration instead of sympathy, which may or may not be healthy. I tend to think that it's more unhealthy than healthy. What happens when sleeping through or falling asleep in class isn't looked down upon anymore because everyone does it or has to do it? I personally have only pulled one all-nighter in my three semesters of college, and I was practically a zombie for the following week (it was on a Sunday night). Maybe other people can deal with sleep-deprivation better than I can, but I really can't imagine not sleeping in order to study and then taking a major test afterwards. My mind would be completely fuzzy, and caffeine can only help so much, generally one night, because after that it loses effect. In short, I think that we're putting the wrong issues as priorities, which is detrimental to the overall sanity of the students at this college.
Name:  Maggie
Username:  mscottwe
Subject:  competition
Date:  2002-11-25 12:28:40
Message Id:  3875
I completely agree with Sarah about how our own attitudes about our workload increase the general atmosphere of stress on campus. Two of my good friends are taking a science-heavy class load with two labs, and they won't stop comparing how much work they have and how little sleep they get. Then when I'm around, and my only contribution is "My work is fine" they complain about how easy my classes are in comparison. I have papers to write too, but I procrastinate less than they do. I don't see the point in comparing my work to theirs because we're taking very different classes. Sure, I'm tempted to say I have as much as they have, but what's the point? It won't get my work done, or make any of us feel better about our work load. Sometimes it does make me feel like I'm working less than they are when they think I don't ever have work because I'm not as stressed as they are. I think this type of comparison is Bryn Mawr's replacement for grade competition, since we're not allowed to talk about grades. The majority of Mawrtyrs being driven and competitive, we feel like we have to compare ourselves to our classmates somehow. In a way, I think this type of competition is just as damaging as comparing grades.

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