Some friendly advice: Occasionally take time to step away from the stress

relaxing cartoon

It’s spring break! But is it actually? Spring break is usually the time when students relax at home with their family, read a book for fun, or catch up with their friends at other universities. It is an opportunity to step away from the stress of school. I must have taken a wrong turn at some point because I do not feel any less stressed out this break than on any other school day, probably because I am catching up or trying to get a head start on schoolwork. I figured this is not a good thing and should actually make efforts to de-stress and relax, especially after the Biological Basis of Behavior lecture on stress.

It may seem obvious to us now that stress is not good for our health, but it is not that plain and simple. Acute stress or stress that occurs for short periods of time is actually beneficial in improving memory. Studies conducted on rats show that stress modulates conditioned fear responses (Cordero & Sandi, 1998), demonstrating that stress contains an important role in learning. On the other hand, chronic stress is detrimental to our health, impairing memory and damaging the hippocampus. Hippocampal damage is a serious matter because its atrophy is involved in disorders such as major depression, Schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientific American posted an article on stress possibly driving neurodegenerative disorder (Neurostress: How stress may fuel neurodegenerative diseases). Chronic stress is what we want to avoid and we can do this by taking some time to relax and enjoying this break!

Note: I have been reading up a bit on stress management so be on the look out for that blog post, which should be out some time this week! In the meantime, spend some time with good company or watch a romantic comedy because as the old saying goes “laughter is the best medicine.” (I have not checked if this saying is supported by empirical research, but let me know if you know.)

5 thoughts on “Some friendly advice: Occasionally take time to step away from the stress

  1. I’ve spent most of this break trying to coordinate my post-graduation transition so I know what you mean about break not necessarily being stress-free. I had intended to spend time reading some of the books I picked up awhile ago including “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” (this title may sound familiar to all you Bio Basis-ers). I’ve been too busy and stressed with school stuff to start reading it, which is kind of ironic. I should probably just do it, maybe reading it will convince me to spend more time de-stressing.


  2. I definitely agree that spring break is not truly a break, as until now I’ve ignored every due date and commitment past spring break and I’m only now realizing the massive amount of work to be done when we get back to school. It’s interesting to think about the difference between college and high school/grade school (at least in my experience): In college we get most if not all of the deadlines on the first day of class, whereas in high school I received deadlines on a monthly or weekly (or even daily!) basis. I think a lot of my stress stems from knowing all of the deadlines for the entire semester in advance (but this is also very helpful… dilemmas, dilemmas).


  3. My friends and I commiserate over the fact that we always manage to get sick during the breaks. I think coming down from all the “go, go, go!” of working hard in school can show you have stress negatively affects your body in ways you don’t even notice. adrenal glands working overtime can really have an adverse effect, but I find it a somewhat ironic that relaxing should bring on sickness…


  4. I definitely agree that many students look forward to break because they see it as a time for relaxing and escaping the demands of schoolwork for a while. However, I personally become really stressed over break because I have a laundry list of things to do like applying to summer internships, reading textbooks, writing papers, and making sure I make it to my dentist appointment while I am home. I do agree that acute stress is important in life and has some positive effects, but I never like the feeling of being stressed. You constantly are thinking about what needs to be done and are forced to juggle between work and fun. If only professors realized this and didn’t schedule tests the week back from break. I think it would be interesting to study what students are especially most stressed about on campus and if they feel like they have sufficient time to escape the chaos and relax. Also it would be interesting to see what distinguishes activities that lead to short lived acute stress and what activities are more likely to lead to chronic stress.


  5. Coming back to school after spring break I felt like I needed a break from my break. I had felt sick and tired and was working on homework and coordinating all the things I had to do.I wish that there was a class that taught you how to manage stress or even de-stress, since I feel like I don’t even have the time to look that up by myself. I feel like it is slightly ironic how all this chronic stress we feel is detrimental to our health and memory, yet the stress is caused by school which uses our memory to learn things. I am curious to learn more about why we feel all this chronic stress. I remember hearing about “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” and I am now really interested in reading it! Although it may have to be a summer read.


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