Stress and Mental State

This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.

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Women Living Well - 2004

Student Papers

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Stress and Mental State

Kathleen Feno

I think that the relationship between stress and mental state is a very close and intense one. Both things have the ability to affect the things around you as well as physical health. For example, we talked about he various "symptoms" of chronic stress. This included excess sleep, lack of appetitie or over-eating, irritability and feeling tired all of the time. Similarly, I think that such symptoms can and do! occur in people who are in a bad frame of mind, regardless of the reason. Also, while I'm not sure that one definitely causes the other, I think that either can exacerbate the problem. When I'm feeling particularly stressed out, I find it very difficult to remain positive. There have been a number of occasions in which bad stress led to feelings of panic which led to negative feelings about myself (and, sometimes, everything around me) which, in turn, led me to really doubt myself and my capabilites. Similarly, when I'm having an "off-day", that is, I'm in a bad mood/ negative mental state, I find that I'm apt to become more stressed much more easily.

For me, another similarity between stress and mental state is motivation. When I'm having those bad days, it is often very difficult for me to really focus on what needs to be done. A similar thing happens when I'm feeling really stressed out. During these times, I tend to overthink problems, make assignments seems bigger (and scarier) than they actually are, and end up getting nothing accomplished. However, some stress is definitely a good thing for me. "Good/acute stress", the stress that disappears when the obstacle does, can be a wonderful motivator. It helps to set boundaries and to define what needs to be done. Thinking positively also really helps motivate myself and manage my time.

Sometimes, I think that it can be really difficult to maintain a positive mental state and manage to control one's stress at an institute as academically demanding as Bryn Mawr. Still, I think that there are some ways to accomplish it. Firstly, I think that talking about stress is one of the best and easiest ways to become more stressed. Often, when I overhear conversations about how much work someone has to do and how little time they have to do it, I find myself wondering why, then, are they wasting time talking about it when they could actually be working. It's like a vicious cycle: obsessing about being stressed causes more stress which causes someone to get much less accomplished than they could have. Discouraging people to talk about the amount of work they have/how stressed they are could be very helpful. Sometimes, it seems that we need to be reminded that being stressed is not a competition. It might also be helpful if the college would also offer some seminars/guidelines on basic time management. It can be very difficult to come from the highly structured life of high school and living with one's parents to the fairly open, liberal college life. Similarly, I think that college is really trying to provide some great de-stressing activities. Things such as yoga, massages, and "no-study zones" are great escapes during the often hectic exam time.

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