For as long as I can remember, my life has always been “go, go, go.” I am the oldest of four girls who all were involved in different sports, clubs and organizations. When one had soccer practice, the other was at gymnastics, or at a swim meet, or doing a service project for a club.
As a high schooler, I was not only in all advanced classes, but I also ran cross-country and track, was the editor of my school newspaper, held leadership positions, was a mentor and attempted to have a social life somewhere in between.
Being extremely active was something I thrived on. I began to believe that I worked best with a lot on my plate and if I wasn’t doing something, I panicked and thought I was missing something. This mindset traveled with me to college and continued to dig itself deeper into my mentality as I filled my planner with my things I had to get done with classes, as an editor for The Reflector, as a member of several RSOs and as an individual who had friends and family. I considered six hours of sleep a full night of rest and didn’t stop moving or working until I lay down to sleep at night. And then my sister passed away.
My sister got sick right before I left for school and died the weekend before I took my first set of finals as a freshman. I couldn’t travel home too much because I lived three hours away. I look back and see how much I let my lifestyle of stress control my life. Were the extra credit events worth more than the 20 minutes I could have spent talking on the phone with her?
My sister was very active, and ate well (excluding her love for Taco Bell), and you never would have thought initially she was sick. I am not trying to compare cancer to stress, but the same can be said about individuals who suffer from complications due to chronic stress.
According to a recent NPR segment, researchers have found that the most stressed-out people have the highest risk of premature death.
“People who always perceived their daily life to be over-the-top stressful were three times more likely to die over the period of study than people who rolled with the punches and didn’t find daily life very stressful,” according to Carolyn Aldwin, leader of the study and director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University.
Stress from both major events in life and minor problems, such as traffic, busy schedules and deadlines, is deadly. Constantly being stressed about everyday things in life leads to chronic stress. Increased levels of cortisol can be found in those who suffer from chronic stress, and these higher levels of cortisol can affect things such as memory, immunity, increased blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
Stress also can have negative effects on an individual’s mental health, especially for college students. Students are constantly under a lot of pressure, and the stress from the workload and fear of the future can lead to depression and anxiety.
A 2012 study by the American College Counseling Association found that 37.4 percent of college students seeking help have severe psychological problems.
Are the tears flowing after a night of cramming for a test or the raised blood pressure from a traffic jam worth it? I don’t think so and I hope other students who live a stressful lifestyle think that as well.
What happened to my sister was unpreventable, and some stress is inevitable, but chronic stress is something that can be avoided. So from now on, I will take extra time working out, pause to take a breath and cherish every second I spend with my loved ones without worrying about what else I have to get done.
Life does not always have to be “go, go, go.”