Stress chest

One students' guide to de-stressing a busy life


When I’m stressed I get, what my friends have dubbed, “stress chest.”

Some people get anxiety, some people get headaches and some people lash out at everyone around them.

When I get stressed out my chest turns flaming red. I get heated, I get light headed and I get more aggressive than the people around me would like me to be.

Some people try to help, others try to tell me to relax and everyone bites their tongue trying to not let the words slip out – calm down.

Because the second that anyone tells me to “calm down” is the second it all comes out and I explode.

I’ve learned that my favorite thing to do is to take on more than I can handle and complain about it along the way. It’s like I yearn to be under pressure and on a strict deadline at all times – regardless of whom I take down with me along the way.

Maybe that’s why I joined The Spectrum.

Maybe that’s why I ran for president of my sorority.

Maybe that’s why I decided to go to law school.

It seems as though no matter how stressed I get or how much I squeeze onto my plate, it always does come together in the end. That feeling of success or completing a task that I’ve written down in my planner everyday with “do tonight” next to it in bold letters for the last month and half makes the entire ride worth it.

As soon as I see my to-do list cleared there’s more than just a sigh of relief or a moment of relaxation. I feel like I’m on top of the world and I can do all the things I’ve been putting off for months. Like spending a day just lying on the couch watching TV, going see a movie with my friends, spending too many hours on Facebook or painting my nails.

But within minutes of my “relaxation” my mind starts flooding over again. And before I know it, the to-do list begins writing itself. Soon enough, the stress chest returns.

There’s nothing like screaming over a room of 62 girls trying to decide what T-shirt design we are going to go with for a sorority event, or whether there will be veggie cream cheese to go with the bagels while simultaneously scheduling three interviews for an article I’m writing amidst applying to law school.

Just thinking about everything I have to do brings the stress chest back.

But, as a consideration to my friends and family who have put up with me for way too long, I’ve started to slowly learn to “calm down” – regardless if I’ll admit that I’m too worked up or not.

Whether you’re dealing with the same tasks that I deal with on daily basis or not – and I hope for your friends and family’s sake you’re not – there’s a few things I’ve learned after being in college that has helped the pressure subside, even if just for a short while.

  1. Every time you get stressed or overwhelmed with even remedial tasks, get a pen and paper. Something about writing out the list of things you need to do always makes me feel a little better. After you write them all out, rank them either in order of importance or by deadlines. Decide what needs to be done the earliest and attack that task first. Even crossing one thing off of that list makes a huge difference.
  2. Find the one thing that puts you in a focused mindset. For me it’s coffee, something that I hope won’t become addictive – as if it’s not already. No matter what I’m doing, if I grab a cup of iced coffee first, I immediately become ready to focus.
  3. Make yourself a go-to spot. That can be a cubicle in Lockwood, or a table at Starbucks if you work better in a busier atmosphere. For me, my go-to spot has changed over the past few years and that’s OK. Right now, this place is in the corner of my L-shaped couch, reclined across the entire thing, in the dark with coffee by my side. Sounds a little creepy, I know, but it works and that’s all that matters.
  4. It’s important to schedule a little break time in between all the work you have to do so you don’t burn yourself out in just a few hours. Give yourself 10 minutes of Facebook time here and there or take a break to get lunch. If I focus for too long without a little break, my mind loses focus and then I can’t get it back for the rest of the day. If I schedule little breaks, I can work for hours and get more things crossed off my list.
  5. Find that one person who stresses just as much as you do. There’s nothing that de-stresses you more than knowing someone else is going through just as much or even more than you are. It’s hard sometimes for your friends and family to actually understand the pressure that’s on you. Finding that one person who gets it and can share in your success when it’s all over is a great feeling.

Everyone has their own little tips and tricks for de-stressing, mine have worked for combatting the redness that floods my chest nearly every day and maybe they’ll work for you, too. It’s important to get your work done and it’s sometimes hard to do so without screaming at everyone along the way.

As much as the work seems to be piling up, remember that feeling of crossing one thing at a time off your list, it will keep you focused on the end goal.

And with that, I just crossed one more thing off of mine.