There has been a lot of discussion about reducing anxiety and stress. It seems like we live in an increasingly competitive society where anxiety and stress have become a cultural norm.
Increasing External Pressures
There has been a lot of reasons offered as to why we feel more anxious and more stressed. The world most of us inhabit bombards us with a continuous barrage of electronic messages. We are stimulated from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed with emails, phone calls, and text messages all requiring a response. Of course, there is always the fear that if we are not connected, we’ll miss out on something important. However, none of these explanations offer much relief.
Understanding Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety and stress are different. Anxiety is worry, or fear, about the future. The eternal “what ifs” we play out in our mind. Unfortunately those “what ifs” are usually negative – our internal critic. Imagine for a moment, if those “what ifs” were about a positive outcome. Since I’ve never been able to predict the future, I suppose either a positive or negative worry is possible, I should anticipate a positive outcome, but I don’t.
Stress, on the other hand, is a response to something happening now. Stress is very present tense. A little bit of stress keeps us active and alert. Too much stress can have a negative impact on both our emotional state and our physical state.
Meditation as a Relief
Meditation is becoming more mainstream as an effective method to reduce anxiety and stress. Sitting quietly in an absence of stimulus for several minutes helps to quiet the mind, relax the body, and reduce both anxiety and stress.
Journaling for Better Performance
Journaling has been overlooked as perhaps a more effective method of relieving stress and improving performance.
An interesting psychological study on stress and anxiety was recently completed where a group of college students were told, without warning, that they would have to take a calculus test, before receiving their CLEP study guides. They couldn’t prepare, and in fact most of them had not had any experience with calculus. The purpose of the experiment was to raise their anxiety and stress.
The students were split into three groups. The first, a control group, didn’t do any test prep. The second group was told to meditate for twenty minutes. The third group was told to journal their thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper.
When given the calculus test, the journaling group performed far better than either the meditating group or the control group.
Case in Point
Here is an article about how a high school AP math class used student journaling as a method to improve performance ~ What is the Effect on Critical Thinking when Journaling is Introduced into an Advanced Placement Calculus Classroom?
So the next time you are feeling stressed about something, try gaining relief and help by writing it down.