What to keep in mind on National Stress Awareness Day


Kernel Opinion SIG

Kellsie Kennedy

If you really need to read this article, you are likely too busy to do so. Or so you think. 

A large part of the college experience is learning how to manage stress. On this National Stress Awareness Day, take the time to evaluate some life changes you can undertake in order to have an easier time with not only the remainder of college but also the remainder of your life.

I have recently come to understand that stress is not a fleeting component of our lives but in many ways a reflection of our personality. I was more stressed as a high schooler than a college student because I underestimated the amount of time various clubs would require. I signed up for everything, and I wanted to hold offices. This unrealistic mentality left me sobbing into my AP Chemistry book several nights a week.

This is how many of us are raised. We have been taught that the more stressed we are, the more successful we will be later on in life. We think that if we get in the habit to work hard now, we will somehow change our lifestyle to a more relaxing one later. Stress has become a validator of our “impressive” workloads.

This is usually not the case. In our efforts to be successful, we continuously forget that our definition of happiness may be different than the societal norm. 

Wendell Berry writes about handling stress in his poem, The Peace of Wild Things. He writes, “When despair grows in me/and I wake in the night at the least sound/ in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,/ I go and lie down where the wood drake/ rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds./ I come into the peace of wild things…” 

Here Wendell Berry speaks to the fact that we cannot change what happens to us, but we can change our perception. If we are stressed about the present or future, the best course of action is to take a step back and understand that things will work out the way they are meant to unfold.

Similarly, fictional character Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them says, “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”  Newt says this as though we have control over feeling stress. But, perhaps to an extent, we do.

If the stress of an activity outweighs the benefits of completing it, stop doing it.

Sometimes we get stuck in this mentality of wanting to be like other people rather than being who we actually are. In this, we sometimes undertake activities in which we are not actually interested in participating.

On National Stress Awareness Day, sure, go ahead and go for a walk. Download a meditation app and order a bath bomb on Amazon Prime, but the relief you feel will be fleeting without taking the time to pursue what truly makes you happy and cutting out of your life the things that do not.