I have a lot of stress and very little time. I’m in a demanding graduate program and working part time. I’m very stressed because my future is dependent on how I do on my exams, and I’ve been having trouble concentrating. I also have trouble sleeping although I’m sure all the coffee I drink doesn’t help that. I need a quick way to get more control over my stress so I can sleep and concentrate. What do you suggest that could help me? Thanks.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Stress is like the smoky, smelly exhaust from a car that hasn’t been properly attended to. There is an art to fine tuning your body/mind/spirit so that it functions optimally. Our bodies have their own rhythm. It’s important to make listening to your body a priority. We all have cycles of alertness followed by periods when we need a break. If you ignore this rhythm (trying to be on all the time while neglecting your nourishment, rest and exercise needs), you will burn extra energy. In the long run, it backfires.
A caring attentive attitude towards yourself will help to conserve and restore your energy reserves. In taking care of yourself, try to pay particular attention to your body’s needs, your emotional needs, and your attitude towards and expectations of yourself. You state that your future is dependent on how you do on your exams. This attitude sets you up for anxiety. All that is required is for you to give it your best effort. Have faith that what is best for you will follow. Do your best, then pay attention to the next step that is right for you. Try to keep the whole picture in perspective by remembering what’s most important to you in the long run.
From a practical perspective I have several suggestions. Two Bach Flower Remedies (found in your local Whole Foods-type store) are very helpful here. Rescue Remedy, and Elm (for more on this, see www.nelsonsstore.com). Gotu Kola and/or green tea will help with alertness in a manner that is less aggravating to your nervous system than coffee. A diet low in sugar and high in whole foods (with protein snacks every few hours) will better nourish your body for alertness. Feed your body and your mind also with your breath. Sit so your chest is open, to allow for deeper breathing. Take 5-10 minute refreshing breaks when needed to stretch and breathe and give your mind a break. Try to find ways of enjoying this period of your life. Enjoyment is a great stress reducer.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2014 Chaitanya Counseling Services