Yerington: The importance of emotionally checking in often

With midterms still in swing and finals on the horizon, it’s important to know it’s OK to check in with yourself and make sure you’re doing OK.


Austin J. Yerington, Opinion Columnist

This has been a very stressful, busy, and emotional semester for me so far, and I credit my continued sanity to the recent techniques I’ve learned to handle this stress. Students many times feel large amounts of stress and get overwhelmed with studies, exams, and personal lives. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 85 percent of students have felt overwhelmed at some point in the year. It’s very important to take a brief break every day and check in on how these stresses are making you feel.

Here are some American Psychology Association recommended techniques to relieve stress and bring focus.

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1: Meditation. It may sound a bit cheesy or hokey, but practicing meditation will help decrease stress and increase mindfulness. The main aspect is trying to do it at least once a day and aiming for 20 minutes, but if time is limited, five minutes can suffice.

To meditate, sit in a quiet room or put on headphones that play music that doesn’t draw too much attention. The goal is to drown out the outside world. Then sit and focus on your breath, trying to make the same amount of time for inhale and exhale. Use your mind to check in with your body, slowly scanning from top to bottom.

According to a recent study at Harvard Medical School published in *JAMA Internal Medicine*, reported that the practice of mindful meditations can help with stress, anxiety, and depression.

2: Spend time with family or friends. This, too, may sound a bit cliché, but spending time with someone you feel comfortable with is proven to help lower anxiety and stress, according to the Psychology Association. The main part is to spend time with someone you feel like you can talk with, someone who can help with forgetting about the stressful situation for a few moments.

3: Spend time doing something you enjoy. When stress comes up next time, try watching your favorite TV show or movie. I play a video game that I can get lost in for an hour or so. It’s very important to give yourself a small gift in moments of real stress, no matter how small or weird others may think it is. This ranked high on the Psychology Association’s tips for reducing stress.

4: Word Vomit Journal. The University of Rochester Medical Center reported that keeping a journal can help manage anxieties, reduce stress, and help with depression.

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This may be the hardest technique to stay committed to but it is also the most rewarding and therapeutic. To do this effectively, sit down for about 20 minutes and write. Don’t think about trying to write anything special, just write, whether it’s about how the bus was late and it ticked you off, or about how much you hate keeping a journal, the main point is doing it. After the 20 minutes is up, set down your pen and DON’T read what you wrote for at least a couple days. The Rochester Medical Center recommends this highly because it is a great way to identify fears, stress triggers, and negative thoughts.

But these techniques aren’t the end-all for helping with stress and mindfulness. There are resources that are out there that will help even when nothing else can. The University of Iowa has a Mindfulness Program in which it helps students who are feeling this stress and anxiety about life. It can be contacted [email protected] or by phone at 1-319-384-5089. I reached out to the program, but officials there declined to comment.

The biggest part is not feeling alone when facing anxieties and stress. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America that 41.6 percent of students rank anxiety as the top concern among college students. Almost every student has felt the same/feels the same, and there is NEVER any shame in treating yourself when you need help.

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