Stressed for success
By: Ronald Leung
You sit flipping through the textbook trying desperately to scan and narrow down on the essential facts. Your hand shoots out for the coffee cup but you almost cry out in despair as you shake it and realize it’s empty.
Ugh, what time is it?
You glance at the clock. 3 a.m. beams back to you in neon green analogue numbers. The midterm’s at 6 p.m. but you have a day full of classes and still half of the material to learn. The stress builds up and….
Really, how do we end up in these situations? Every year we are faced with numerous tests and exams, studying and staying up until the wee hours of the morning attempting to fill our minds with knowledge. But even with all this practice, we still find ourselves caught in the headlights of the great roaring monster of exams. Stress – it’s something we all live with.
What should we do then? Should we lock ourselves away and fret about the inevitable stress of our lives? No, quite the opposite actually. Surprisingly, without stress nothing would ever be accomplished. It is something that is bound to happen and should be embraced.
When you’re stressed, the medulla in your brain secrete two neurotransmitters (which are chemicals that carry signals to different nerves) adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Believe it or not, these molecules cause a rapid heart rate and increase alertness – in other words, an ancient process called the “flight or fight” response. Everything from increased oxygen flow for better speed to dilating pupils for night vision originates from stressful situations which may have come in handy for your ancestor 1,500 generations ago duking it out with sabre-toothed tigers on the tundra. Nowadays all the wild animals are locked up in zoos (at least most of them) so stress has adapted to give increased mental capabilities. So yes, that boost of determination and energy to really finish reading that chapter in the textbook you’ve been putting off for weeks may not come from RedBull or the espresso you just drank – it’s your brain trying to help you out.
Did you know that excitement is a type of stress? When you’re planning an exciting birthday or party, stress drives you to do a really good job – because you really care about what you’re involved in. How does this differ from that nasty exam lurking months ahead? As cheesy as it sounds, it’s in our attitude. Hey, don’t expect anyone to suddenly become excited over an exam compared to a weekend hangout but slowly, the only way to really combat stress is to look at the challenges you have in a more positive light. Even the small things – choosing a file folder at Titles, or what to eat at Centro can all be related back to stress, just on a minuscule level. It’s just your brain looking out for you – it wants the best for you.
The next time you get stressed, try to turn the situation around. Think about what could be positive about that horrendous roadblock you see up ahead.
So the next time you see an upcoming midterm (don’t try to pretend you didn’t know you had one until the weekend before), really and I mean really try to plan out your studying time. Okay, who really wants to study? Hopefully, images of your crazed/binge-eating/exhausted/dazed self the night before the exam is some motivation. And if you do it long enough – gasp – it’ll become habit and soon stress will turn from that sleepless force to a more gentle coach. I think we’ve all had our fair share of stress, it’s time to turn the tables to take advantage of the benefits of stress.