Carleton Students Talk Self-Care in Times of Stress

Common among most students is the S word: stress.

The Charlatan spoke with Carleton students regarding what stresses them out the most, and how they make time to practice self-care.

Among the top worries of students interviewed were academic performance, family expectations and maintaining a social life at the same time as managing heavy workloads.

Despite common stressors, solutions vary for every individual.

For Eric Leung, a second-year software engineering student, mindset is key.

“It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with workloads and deadlines,” Leung said. “When I can, just closing my eyes and clearing my thoughts usually helps.”

Leung also said he practices mindfulness meditation, a de-stressing technique that can be practiced at  any time, anywhere.

But, keeping positive and slowing down to breathe can be hard sometimes, so experts recommend exercise to help let go of stress.

According to the American Psychology Association, “Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems—all of which are involved in the stress response—to communicate much more closely than usual.”

For Tomara Havers, a third-year biochemistry student, that includes yoga, sports, and long walks.

 “If you go for a walk to try to clear your mind and all you do while you’re out is think about what’s stressing you, then it’s not going to work,” Havers said. “[Exercise] helps me feel energized and better all-around.”

 For Havers, laughter is also one of the easiest methods to relieve stress,  and  she describes it as fun and always accessible.

“It can be as simple as putting on a groovy tune and dancing through the kitchen in your socks, thinking about how goofy you look and just smiling about it,” Havers said.

 Besides exercise and lots of laughter whenever possible, Havers also said that no stress is too big or too small to discuss. She suggests using help services such as hotlines like Good2Talk, who have professionals ready to help.

Although many students may have a strategy for managing stress, Leung and Havers both say that the biggest obstacle to them practicing a healthy mindset is finding enough time.

 “It’s difficult to find a balance and to let people know that sometimes you have to take time for yourself,” Leung said. “It’s not a personal thing about them, but you’re just looking out for yourself.”

  Havers agrees with Leung on time being the main inhibitor of practising self-care.

“We’d all go the distance for the things we like and that make us feel good, if we weren’t competing for time with the things we feel obligated to do,” Havers said.

But, both Leung and Havers said while it’s easy to lose track of time, self-care is not to be ignored.

 Havers explained that when students push themselves too much, it can also lead them to having low self-esteem, or even an emotional crisis.

“Always feeling below par or beaten by your stress can totally make you an emotional wreck,” Havers said. “I imagine that’s why a lot of young people associate their stress levels with depression or mental crisis.”

According to Leung, even taking a few moments out of every day can be helpful.

“Ten, 15 minutes, or half an hour each day [lets you] reset yourself so that your stressors don’t build up,” Leung said.

Havers suggests fitting in time for  self-care according to one’s own daily schedule.

“The amount of me-time one requires may change from day-to-day,” she said. “The truth is, when you’re rushing against the clock, if you set time aside specifically for [meditation] then that’s probably the first thing you would cut from your schedule when things get hectic. Just go with the flow and spend as much time as you need.”

Graphic by Manoj Thayalan