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Panel explores strategies to manage, reduce stress

| Tuesday, December 10, 2019

With exam week quickly approaching, Saint Mary’s students took to the Dalloway’s clubhouse for a panel on stress management sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA).

“As far as we understand tonight, the basic idea is that we’re here for you,” said panelist and Saint Mary’s life coaching consultant Becky Lindstrom. “We’re here to answer your questions, especially if you’re a first year and have never been through exams.”

The panel opened with Lindstrom addressing that stress is normal, a part of life, a part of transition and a part of change.

“Actually, any time you take on a new job, if you want to get married, if you want to have children, if you want to travel internationally, go abroad for a semester, these are all very fantastic, exciting things that we want in our lives and they’re also things that are going to bring us stress,” she said.

Lindstrom notes that there are different kinds of stress and there are different ways of thinking about stress.

“The stress that you experience when you are getting ready to take that test, that in some ways is good for you. Especially when you are actually going in to take the test because when we feel stressed it changes our body and it actually gives us more oxygen flow to our brains so we can think quicker,” she said. “It just in general sharpens our senses and makes you perform better. That’s how stress can actually be an advantage to you in situations where it makes sense that you would feel stressed.”

Her biggest takeaway for students, she said, would be to know that this perspective shift alone can help reduce stress.

“When you realize it’s natural to feel stressed out and it’s actually something that can benefit you when you know how to harness it, that makes you feel more in control,” she said.

Lindstrom also said there is a difference between managing your stress and reducing your stress, especially in the wake of approaching exams.

“We can talk about managing it because that’s totally possible. Reducing it, short of hiding under a rock for the rest of your life, is not necessarily easy to do,” Lindstrom said. “But there is one thing that you can do to reduce your stress and that is, as much as possible, be right here, right now. Don’t be a year ago where you’re kicking yourself about what you should have, could have, would have done, right? That doesn’t help. Don’t be a week or a month or a year ahead thinking about all the potential bad things that could happen if you don’t take care of this right now, cause that also doesn’t necessarily help. What’s going to help you the most in reducing your stress and helping you feel a little more ability to control it is to be very aware of the stories you’re telling yourself and when you’re going into the past or way out into the future.”

Fellow panelists and Saint Mary’s students shared their stress reduction and management skills with the audience.

“I basically do two major things that help me manage or reduce my stress. The first thing, I actually got into this year is meditation. So, every night before bed, I use this app called ‘Headspace.’” senior Jessie Snyder said. “Then another thing that I really try to focus on is doing self-care routines at night.”

This was followed by senior Haley Mitchell, who said nature was a big part of her de-stressing, whether that be taking walks to the lake or down the nature trail on campus.

Junior Kelsey O’Connor and first-year student in the audience Morgan Puglisi shared that their approach to stress management was to make lists and attend to their planners.

“I would say definitely to-do list is something that helps me,” Puglisi said. “Just map out like, ‘OK, these are the things I need to do.’ Sometimes I’m like, ‘I need to do this this and this,’ and I stress my own self out. Just making a list and saying, ‘OK, one step at a time. I’m going to start with this and then I’m going to go to that.’ That really helps me make everything into a structure. When our minds go crazy, it’s nice to have that structure.”

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