A Few Tips for Finals Stress Relief

Finals week is nearly upon us: that dreaded time of endless studying and nervous breakdowns, all-nighters and more espresso shots than is healthy. This will be my sixth time going through this ordeal—provided, of course, that I survive.

I wanted to share some of my tips for stress relief so that, hopefully, more of us will make it out alive.

Take Breaks

If you’ve been working for hours on end, go outside and take a fifteen minute walk. Nonstop studying is almost less productive because of the brain fatigue that you experience. Even a fifteen minute walk can help you wake up and be able to focus more on what you’re doing, in addition to letting you relax for just a little while.

Classical Music

Classical music is proven to help your brain. Another bonus? It’s remarkably soothing. My favorite song lately has been Debussy’s Clair de Lune.

Drink Tea

Coffee is very caffeinated and too much can leave you feeling shaky and anxious. Tea is a lower-caffeine option that will keep you awake without those jitters. Additionally certain teas can be very good for calming anxiety, such as chamomile.

The Pomodoro Technique

This technique is used to break down heavy work periods into smaller intervals. You study really hard for 25 minutes and then take a short 5 minute break. Repeat this four times and then take a longer break before returning to your studies. This helps prevent brain fatigue and actually increases productivity so you get more done than you would if you just powered through it all in one sitting.

Get Outside

If you can, take your studying out into Mother Nature. Fresh air can seriously help with depression or other negative feelings, and the warm sun has very relaxing effects.

Pressure Points

Pressure points are areas on your body which can help relieve unpleasant feelings. They can be used to ease headaches, nausea, and other bodily ailments. And yes, of course, stress. My favorite one for stress relief is the area right between your thumb and your pointer finger.

The most important thing to remember that it’s not the end of the world. If you mess up on a test life will go on. Try your best, and that’s all that matters.

Advertisements

Love, Shaepable

I just had an article published on U News Writing, the news writing blog at the University of Utah! It’s about the stigma against college students who have mental illnesses. I’m really excited to be published on a news website!

Thank you so much to all of the wonderful people who let me interview them.

Check it out at:

https://unewswriting.wordpress.com/2016/12/07/stigma-against-college-students-with-mental-illness/

Depersonalization and Derealization

Most people are fairly familiar with common anxiety symptoms, including shaking, pounding heart, headache, difficulty breathing, etc. However, there are some lesser known symptoms that I wanted to bring to attention today: Depersonalization and Derealization.

Depersonalization is when an individual feels detached from themselves. They feel like they are out of their body or that they are watching themselves. People experiencing Depersonalization can even feel like they are floating through space.

Derealization is the feeling that the world around you is fake. People who experience Derealization have a feeling that what they are seeing or doing is not real, or like they are in a dream.

The two are very similar and interconnected in many ways. The line between the two is very blurred, and they fade in and out from each other

Both Depersonalization and Derealization are symptoms of a panic attack. Many do not recognize them as anxiety-related even if they are diagnosed with anxiety or experience these phenomena frequently. When someone is having an episode of Depersonalization and/or Derealization, they do not necessarily experience other symptoms of anxiety, like heavy breathing or shaking, at the same time (although it is possible). These symptoms are not necessarily dangerous in and of themselves, but can be very disorienting and at times quite terrifying.

I didn’t realize that these were symptoms of my disorder until recently, and I’ve been experiencing them for years. Personally, I frequently have the feeling of dreaming or that I am floating and not connected to my body. On a bad day, it seems like I float up into the sky and into the galaxies.

Of course, there are ways to help calm these feelings and bring yourself back “down.” One of the methods I use is called Mindfulness. In order to practice Mindfulness, you focus on the five senses and what you experience in the real world. For example, you can feel textures or concentrate on bodily sensations like sitting on a chair. You can listen to sounds around you. You can eat something sweet or sour and focus on the taste. What helps me most is to look at colors, partly I think because I am an artist. I pay attention to all the colors around me, especially green, and their variations. This helps me to come back to myself and feel like I am connected with the world around me again.

Six Ways To Calm Anxiety 

​1. Make a playlist of songs that make you happy or songs that are calming. Mine has a pretty wide smattering of music. It includes This Is Gospel by Panic! At The Disco, The Call by Regina Spektor, Slow Town by Twenty One Pilots, among others. This is helpful for a few reasons. First, music is a huge influence on your emotions. It has the power to make us feel different things. If you listen to a sad song, you feel down. If you listen to an upbeat song, you feel energy. If you listen to calming and happy music, you feel more relaxed and cheerful. Second, if you condition yourself to certain sounds or songs and use them to make you happier or more relaxed, every time you hear them they will have this effect on you. I have one song that I used as my alarm in the morning for a couple of years and now every time I hear it, I immediately wake up and it sparks more energy. There’s another song I used as my ringtone and now when it plays I immediately reach for my phone. If you condition yourself to calming music, you will start to feel better every time you hear it.

2. Make a safe place for yourself that you can retreat to. For example, I keep a zen garden in a corner of my room. I have a great setup with a tablecloth, a candle, a pretty box to hold my rocks, a jar and paper to write down wishes or good thoughts, and a small statue. In a way, it’s kind of a shrine. But it’s a small spot I’ve made for myself so that when I’m sad, upset, or feeling anxious, I can take a short break in my own little space.

3. There is a technique that is useful for calming anxiety called Mind-Body Bridging, or Mindfulness, especially if you experience symptoms like disconnectedness. Mind-Body Bridging calls for awareness of the five senses. Take a moment to notice the colors around you, textures that you can feel (like your clothes or a wall), any sounds or smells in your environment, the taste of your food or drink, etc. This helps bring the mind back down to earth and keep it calm. When I go through a panic attack, one of the symptoms I often experience is the sensation that I’m floating through space. This is classified under disconnectedness. When I focus on aspects of the world around me it helps bring me down and reconnect me to real life. The things I find especially helpful are a focus on colors or observing pressure on my body, like the ground below my feet or the chair I’m sitting on.

4. Meditation has a huge plethora of benefits, especially the effect of calmness that it brings. 

http://zen-ua.org/practices/position-for-sitting-meditation-zazen 

I like to throw on a calming CD (Cry of the Loon, to be specific) and sit on a pillow. It’s recommended to meditate for half an hour a day or more if you have the time. With my busy schedule, I usually can’t make time for this. However, I do find that even ten minutes on a stressful day is beneficial to me.

5. Distract yourself. Throw in a movie or a video game, or make yourself a blanket nest and camp out with some Netflix. Getting your mind off of real life for a couple hours gives you time to settle down, especially if you have something to keep you from dwelling on thoughts.

6. Exercise. Go on a run. Go to the gym. Do yoga. Physical activity does wonders for the mental state. A recommended 20-30 minutes of cardio per day is not only good for your body, but helps significantly with mental and emotional difficulties.

What It’s Like to Live With Depression

May is Mental Illness Awareness Month, and in honor of that I wanted to take my post this week to talk about mental illness in my own life. One of the reasons I think it’s important to talk about mental illness in such a personal capacity is that it tends to be such a taboo topic. In my opinion, the more open I am about my own mental illnesses, the more open other people will be with questions and their own experiences. Mental illness is, contrary to the belief of many, a real illness with difficult and trying effects on those who live with one. By talking about it, awareness can continue to be spread and the idea that mental illness is “just an excuse” can be eradicated.

A lot of you are aware that I’m a person who has mental illness. More specifically, I have four that have been diagnosed so far: Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terms, I’d invite you to do a little Googling or even come to me personally. I’m more than happy to talk about it or answer any questions, as long as the topic is handled with respect.

I’ve had depressive symptoms since early elementary school, but I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder until around six months ago. It’s been a mixed experience. It’s good to know that the things I go through emotionally have a cause, and can be treated and worked with to improve them. However, I’ve had a really difficult time adjusting to the idea that my depression and anxiety isn’t temporary, but a disease that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. I’ve been in the process of finding a medication that works for me, albeit without much success. I’ve been in therapy for about seven months now, the second time in my life that I’ve needed to go see a regular therapist. I’m working on getting better and finding healthy and effective coping mechanisms, but even with these measures depression is not a pleasant experience to have to go through.

Many people in my life have asked me what depression feels like. Depression, firstly, is different for everyone and manifests a wide range of symptoms with varying intensities for each person. However, even within my own self, depression takes a variety of forms and that’s a bit of what I wanted to talk about today.

Depression is exhaustion. I feel tired all the time, a large contributing factor to the seventy-two cups of coffee I down per day. This exhaustion makes it extremely hard to function. It’s often really difficult to concentrate on tasks, such as school or work, because all I can focus on is not falling asleep. With this tiredness and lack of concentration, simple daily tasks become very hard to accomplish. On a bad day, a ten page reading can take an hour and a half (and normally, I’m a very fast reader.) Cleaning my room for thirty minutes requires an hour long nap to recover from the exertion. A ten minute conversation is draining. Sometimes, even, it’s even too hard to get out of bed because the thought of having to lift my limbs is exhausting.

Depression is loneliness. It is the fear that you are alone and friendless, even when surrounded by those you love. It is the isolation of your disease, when others don’t quite grasp the concept of what you are going through. It is the inability to reach out for help from others.

Depression is hopelessness. It is the fear and, at times, even acceptance that life will not get better. It seems as though I am a failure at school, at art, at social activities, at life in general. It is the feeling that I have disappointed myself, my friends and family, and everyone else I know.

Depression is numb. Sometimes there is no feeling except to want to feel anything. There are days when, even if I received the worst of news, I would feel nothing towards it even if I wanted to. I don’t feel happy, I don’t feel sad, I don’t feel anything. These are some of the worst days.

Depression is overwhelming sadness. It can be about a specific thing or event. Alternatively, it can be about nothing at all, just a blanket of miserableness. And sometimes it will hit you out of nowhere. You could be having a great time and suddenly mid-laugh it hits you and you can’t smile anymore.

Depression affects every area of your life and you can’t help it, as much as you would like to. It is a mental disease, and because your brain is the organ that controls all of your feelings and actions, no area remains untouched. You can learn to function better through it and you can learn different techniques to improve your mood, but it is a long and tedious process that is not guaranteed to help all the time.

All of you know someone with some sort of mental illness, whether you are aware of it or not. I plead that all of you take time to research and try to understand better about mental illness. Google can be a great resource. You can talk to people. More than anything, however, try to be understanding and sensitive to those you know who may have a mental illness. They know how it affects them personally better than any website or any other person. If you can try to understand and support them, then you can help them through their difficult experiences.

 

Mental Medication

I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression ever since I was a child. I’ve gone through therapy before, and am in therapy right now to try and rectify the situation with my mental health. Therapy is great. I would highly recommend it to anyone going through struggles with mental illness. There are a lot of things it can help with, and it’s definitely had a large impact on my life.

Unfortunately, therapy can’t do everything. This is my second time going through it and, although it helps an incredible amount, I’m still having a lot of struggles. It’s been a long and painful ordeal even getting to the point where I accepted that I needed therapy, and it’s taken even longer to come to the conclusion that I have right now: medication is the next step for me.

I’ve been on antidepressants for about two months now and even though it’s not perfect yet, it’s a huge step in the direction towards recovery for me.

Let’s get medical for a second. Most commonly, depression stems from a serotonin imbalance in the brain. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter, allowing signals to be transferred between cells. Antidepressants essentially account for this lack in serotonin, allowing the brain and other parts of the body to carry on.

As my therapist put it, antidepressants rewire the brain in order to be able to function properly.

The question lies in this: if mental illness is a chemical imbalance and medications help to counteract these chemical imbalances, why is the use of medication to combat depression and other mental illnesses so hard to accept?

Society has a highly stigmatized view of mental illness. Since mental illness lies inside the body as opposed to an external physical impairment, it is viewed as a “fake” illness. People who don’t suffer from a mental illness simply don’t understand that mental illnesses are entirely out of the victim’s control. Often, mental illness stems from genetic reasons or chemical imbalances within the brain and body. Someone with a mood disorder or a mental disorder doesn’t have any say in this.

There have been times in my life where I have been told to “just get over it” or “stop being so depressed, you’re making the rest of us sad.” I don’t blame the people who have said these things. They just don’t understand what it’s like to go through a mental illness.

Because mental illness is viewed as something that (no pun intended) is just in the head, society doesn’t understand that medication is oftentimes needed in order to decrease symptoms. And, unfortunately, this trickles over to people who do have mental illnesses. If you are told over and over that you’re just making it up, you doubt yourself. It’s a twisted form of brainwashing. Once you believe that the mental illness is your own fault or that you are just a faker, it is exceptionally difficult to accept medication as a solution. If you are “not sick,” then why would you need to be treated for it?

For me, at least, medication was an admittance that something was wrong with me. It was the confirmation that I was “crazy,” that I wasn’t “normal.” Neither of these are true.

Medication is a route that some people have to go for their mental illness in order to be able to function. It’s a route that I have to go in order to be able to function. There is nothing wrong with that.

If you have cancer, you get chemotherapy. If you break a bone, you get a cast put on. And if you have a mental illness, you take medication to feel better.