It’s fine to be fast paced – Just not all the time

Marianne Bom & Rie Jerichow, Publicér

How do you avoid busyness turning into stress? Psychologist Michelle Angelica Kaptain from Studenterrådgivningen shares her knowledge.

”Det lyder så banalt, men man skal huske at have det sjovt. Tilværelsen er ikke kun at slide og performe,” siger psykolog Michelle Angelica Kaptain fra Studenter­rådgivningen. Foto: Privatfoto

It is too much with the exams, the study job, aunt Hellen’s birthday, the laundry, and the friends that need tending to.
That is how it can feel as a student, and there’s not much to do about it. Life is allowed to go off like like a Formula 1 car for some time. It just cannot stay like that, psychologist Michelle Angelica Kaptain from Studenterrådgivningen in Aalborg points out.
“Stress in a short period is useful to us. It is what makes us make a special effort, when we need to. But long term stress isn’t healthy. It makes the neural network in the brain to keep spinning, and it doesn’t take much to go into overdrive, and what naturally follows is unhappiness and failure to concentrate,” says Michelle.
It is a good “investment” to take it seriously when you feel you have been under pressure for too long. In that case, you
have to drive your body and mind into
a pitstop, which will lighten the flow of
the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which is pumped into your body when your reptile brain feels that you are in danger.

Take a step back
“Stress is a physiological condition. It’s when the oldest part of your brain, the reptilian brain, signals that there is a threat.
It’s the same reaction as when a caveman met a saber toothed tiger, and needed a boost so he could run really fast,” says ­Michelle.
But as opposed to the caveman, who got the warning lights to stop flashing when he was in safety, many modern day people keep driving in high speed for longer periods. It is not healthy, and the best thing is of course to prevent it from going wrong. But how do you do that?
The short answer is to regularly take a step back and look at yourself and your “schedule” objectively. And when doing so, remember not to compare yourself with someone else. It is individual how much you can take, and for how long.
“How are you feeling? And how is your “schedule”? Are your days so tightly packed that you keep postponing the things that charge you up? It may be a sign that your calendar is too tightly packed if you often find yourself saying: “that nap I need can wait until later”. Or: “that walk I want to go on has to wait until tomorrow”,” says Michelle.

Structure your daily life
It does not sound very hard, but it can be if you are spinning in high gears and on auto pilot. If you like using apps, you can get help with the process from Studenderrådgivningen’s app “Eksamenshjælp” (“Exam help”). It is also relevant in periods without exams, since you can use it to structure your daily life by usage of a week planner, and get tips on study techniques. That will help you find time to do what the psychologist calls to “vent”.
“For some, it’s de-stressing to turn off the phone and just sit still, while others would find that to be stressing in itself. You have to find the method that works best for yourself, and to many, that’s physical exercise. Quiet movements like walking, swimming, or doing yoga has proven to make levels of cortisol and adrenaline go down,” says Michelle.
“It may sound silly, but remember to have fun. Life isn’t just about working hard and performing. For most people, part of what makes life meaningful is to find time for fun and imperfect things, and that will help you keep the stress levels down.”