by tuli alexander./The AS Review

It’s that time again: finals. Although there is no way to keep from stressing during dead week and finals, it’s important to take time out to relax.

Taking a study break is actually going to make your studying more effective than just cramming nonstop, said Wellness Outreach Center (WOC) Lifestyle Advisor and Coordinator of the Stress Less Program Tabitha Englebright.

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Everybody has their own way of relaxing, Englebright said, but some simple methods she recommends include progressive muscle relaxation, a breathing exercise through the diaphragm and visualization.

Even just counting to 10 can help people remove themselves from stressful situations, she said.

But a person doesn’t have to do anything to relax. In fact, meditation is about doing absolutely nothing, said Brooks Hassig, co-leader of Meditation Club.

Our thoughts are responsible for our stress, Hassig said. Meditation helps us to stop worrying and thinking and helps us to relax by taking us out of the moment.

“You are not your mind. You’re also not your body. But we spend a lot of time with our thoughts and our body but meditation is a state of just being,” he said.

People should bring all their doubts, stress and worries to Meditation Club because these are also all the things that they can leave behind, Hassig said.

Exercising several times a week is important to help you handle stress, according to the pamphlet “5 Smart Steps to Less Stress” that can be found in the WOC. To incorporate a little stress-free activity between cram sessions, throwing a Frisbee can be relaxing and enjoyable, depending on the level at which you play, said Kim Gladow, captain of the Western ultimate Frisbee team.

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“It’s hard to be angry and play Frisbee,” she said. “You don’t play if you’re pissed off. ... It’s a happy sport.”

There are multiple ways to throw a Frisbee. The most common is the backhand throw, which is usually the one we learn as kids, Gladow said.

Then there’s the forehand throw, which is used most in ultimate Frisbee games because it’s such an adaptable throw The player doesn’t have to be in a specific position like they do when throwing backhand.

The hammer throw is released over the top of the thrower’s head. It goes really high up and becomes an upside down blade that can be really hard to catch, Gladow said.

“Playing Frisbee is also a really fun way to meet cool people because people are generally always willing to let others join in,” said Gladow.
Yoga is another way to improve stress management.

As an experience that combines the mind and body, yoga focuses on building strength and flexibility while at the same time emphasizes the balances between the mental and the physical, said Ashley Bice, a power yoga instructor at Western.

“We store a lot of stress in our bodies. We normally just sit with it and don’t work it out like animals do in nature,” she said.

The mental aspect of yoga teaches people to better handle stress and deal with it in stressful situations, Bice said.

“It also allows us to take a break. We can leave our problems behind for a designated time and pick them back up later with a more rested, balanced mind,” she said.
People can expect to start off a typical power yoga class with some deep breathing and centering exercises and then progress into flowing movements and some standing and working poses. Those are followed by some deep stretching and a final relaxation.

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Beginning yoga incorporates a similar structure with less emphasis on standing and working poses, Bice said.

“If you come to yoga with the intention of relaxing, you need to really focus on that intention because it’s really easy to let your mind wander off,” she said. “But you need to have a certain amount of mental determination to do so. And that takes practice.”

Englebright said that it has been found that if people relax daily, their general stress tolerance is higher and it takes more to stress them out.

When a person gets stressed out, their cortizol levels go up. Cortizol is the hormone that’s released from our adrenal glands that is responsible for our fight, flight and freeze responses, Englebright said.
Cortizol is great for survival, but unless we’re actually in danger high levels of this hormone can cause us to gain weight, get sick or develop chronic high blood pressure, Englebright said.

An experience of stress looks like a bell curve, Englebright said. People typically function at a normal level that peaks at a stressful time. But instead of going back to its original level, it dips below it, much like the body crashes after a sugar high, she said. That dip is usually the reason we get sick after finals, she said.

Although there’s no way to avoid stress at these times, students need to try not to let it get out of hand, she said.