Complaining and Being Stressed: The Famous Bryn Mawr Pastime

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Women Living Well - 2004

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Complaining and Being Stressed: The Famous Bryn Mawr Pastime

Michele Drejka

Half of the problems most people have would probably not exist if they only kept a positive mental state. A positive mental state is so important for one's mental health, as well as the personal enjoyment of a perpetual good mood. Positive emotions such as love, contentment, pride, interest, and happiness can boost your mental state, and an improved mental state can benefit you in many ways. People in a positive mental state are more mentally alert, more prepared to deal with stress, and more content with life. A mentally healthy state can also improve your ability to think clearly, while those stuck in a negative mental state tend to make bad decisions, or become irritable or impatient.

This concept goes hand in hand with the notion of good and bad stress. Good stress, also known as acute stress, is what gets us going in the morning, or what makes you try your hardest, or what inspires you to try something new. Bad stress, or chronic stress, can weigh down on a person for weeks, months, or years, and there is no relief from the stress when a stressor is removed—you made the deadline, you got the job, or you just completed a huge project—but the stress does not alleviate. Chronic stress causes irritability, decreased ability to think clearly, difficulty focusing, lack of mental/physical energy, and it also can provoke negative thinking. So, chronic stress can even decrease your mental health by invoking a constant negative mental state! This has great potential to become a cycle, and people may feel trapped and hopeless without realizing that usually a minor lifestyle change can let them out of their negative circuit.

Balancing your life is important to maintain a positive mental state, because too much stress can bring you down. Not enough stress can also be bad, because without at least some acute stress, you may tend to lose motivation and laziness can ensue. Balancing life, or more clearly, balancing work and play, not only means not overworking yourself, but it also means making sure you are adequately challenged. A well balanced life that challenges you and reaffirms your self-confidence while still allowing time to relax is conducive to maintaining a positive mental state.

A student body under the pressure of rigorous academics and high expectations is predisposed to the scourge of chronic stress. But people come to Bryn Mawr to be challenged, their thirst for knowledge only vaguely satisfied at the cost of their sanity! Just kidding! However, it's not really a joke, because many of us are still testing out how much we can handle, and I often still end up biting off more than I can chew. Chronic stress affects many at Bryn Mawr, inducing negative behavior and mentality, and sweeping some into a rut. From what I see of this campus, I think many people could stand to re-evaluate the way they are balancing work and play. What is life for if it is spent in misery?

In order for students to value balance and realize the importance of a positive mental state, the campus would have to be made more aware of the benefits to your physical and mental health and capabilities. Stressbusters during finals is always a great opportunity to realize the healing power of laughter and human company. But I feel like this campus needs stressbusters mid-semester also. It need not be college-sponsored, or anything necessarily grand, it just needs to give you that much needed laugh or get you away from the computer for a while.

Realistically, if this campus were going to shift toward valuing a more positive mental state, we may have to stop boasting about how much work we have and how we haven't slept in a month. Complaining and negativity cannot make things better, nor can competitively arguing with your friends about who has the worst life. However, our student body is not hopeless. I think people here are very open-minded and health-conscious, and would embrace the idea of raising awareness about mental health.

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