The birds are chirping, the snow is melting, and the sun is shining. But most of us are probably too preoccupied to be admiring these beautiful changes. Instead, we’re preparing for the apocalypse: finals are coming. It’s not unusual for students to be panicked, anxiety-ridden and stressed out at this time of year. This is why we at The Concordian thought this editorial could be useful for students facing these obstacles.
According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment, 33 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students are stressed. Among those people, 27.4 per cent have anxiety issues and 21.3 per cent have sleep problems. We all know how the accumulation of stress from homework and finals preparation can affect our sleeping schedule. Most of us stay up much later than we should to catch up on readings and assignments we left until the last minute. Our go-to substance is coffee, and although it might help us feel more productive, coffee actually increases anxiety, according to a 2010 study conducted by the experimental psychology department at the University of Bristol.
We might also find ourselves relying on comfort food to feel better, like ice cream or macaroni and cheese. But according to Harvard Health Publishing, while these foods release brain chemicals that help us feel good in the moment, processed foods are higher in sugar and caffeine which can cause our body more distress in the long run. So, in the fight against stress, start by picking up a couple of blueberries which contain antioxidants that improve our reaction to stress. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are also known to alleviate depression and fatigue, according to the same source. Zinc in cashews can help reduce anxiety; spinach can produce dopamine in the brain and calm you down; milk’s Vitamin D can boost happiness; and carbohydrates in oatmeal help the brain produce serotonin and essentially battle stress.
Students can also look to Concordia for help. The Stress Management page on Concordia’s website in the Healthy Living section includes a stress management worksheet that can help students identify their stressor and offers possible stress management strategies. A list of ways to combat stress includes deep breathing, massages, exercise, meditation, working on hobbies or developing new ones, as well as spending time with loved ones.
Campus services also include the Zen Den, a place where students can find peace and serenity when they feel overwhelmed or stressed out. It’s open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Zen Den is located in GM 300 on the downtown campus and includes comfortable seating, warm lighting and soothing images. It also has resources to practice stress reduction and workshops that can help with your wellbeing. Staff members are present to provide techniques for self-care, and upcoming workshops will be based on mindfulness, anxiety and panic attacks, as well as positive psychology.
Concordia also offers counselling and psychological services to help students maintain their mental health, as well as gymnasiums and fitness centres for students looking to relieve tension and boost their physical health.
It’s easy to feel alone and helpless when our stress is a huge, seemingly all-too powerful monster. But it’s important to remember that help is available, through Concordia and through easy at-home remedies. Take the time to eat healthy foods to boost your mood and reduce your stress. Take a nap, avoid the coffee and go outside for a walk. If you feel severely overwhelmed or panicked, reach out to Concordia’s counselling and psychological services to book an appointment with a professional.
On a more positive note, at least we’re all on this stress-filled boat together.
Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth