The Trinity Voice

Even relaxing stresses me out


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     High school students don’t have it easy. Between school, homework, sports, play practice and family responsibilities, we live in a world in which there is always something to do. There is always work to get done, progress to be made and goals to work toward. Our parents and teachers constantly remind us to make use of our limited time in the best and most productive way possible.

     Our push for productivity causes us to develop a phobia of wasting time. When budgeting our schedule, we leave little room for recharging. We tell ourselves that relaxing is a poisonous thing. We convince ourselves that relaxation is time poorly spent and will keep us from accomplishing our life goals.

     “Relaxing can be stressful because I know I could be doing something more,” junior Connor MacInnis said. “I know that I have friends who are doing things that are way more productive. Yet, here I am, on Netflix, browsing around or even eataing. I know that so many people are doing more productive things than me, so it’s hard to relax. It’s a guilt thing.”

     We fall into the trap of thinking that every waking moment should be spent on homework, studying, or perfecting our sport or craft. We fear the prospect of relaxing since it will let ourselves and our loved ones down.

     This underlying feeling of guilt makes it extremely difficult to set aside our textbooks, and give ourselves the breaks we deserve. Instead of relaxing, we try to find something else worthwhile to do. If we can’t find anything to do, we spend our time worrying about how we are not presently working toward a tangible goal.

       “It stems from the fact that I know that there are other things I could be doing that are more important than what I’m doing at that moment,” MacInnis said. “I always feel like I’m less prepared for everything than my friends, so the stress level is higher.”

     But will winding down at the end of a long day to watch an episode or two of Stranger Things prevent us from getting into college? Will catching up with friends at Chewy Boba block us from living our dream life?

     There will always be something to get done. However, research shows that relaxation actually helps with productivity.

      According to The New York Times article “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive,” professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University studied top-notch performers, from athletes to actors. They found that the best performers typically practiced in 90-minute intervals that were spread out during the day with breaks in between.

      “To maximize gains from long-term practice, individuals must avoid exhaustion and limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis,” Dr. Ericsson said.

      Humans only have so much energy, and working nonstop deprives us of the energy renewal necessary to live productive and healthy lives. Without taking breaks to recharge, it becomes very difficult to get things done. Though the impulse is to push harder when feeling stressed, we must remember that rest is crucial in achieving our goals.

     Unfortunately, this fear of relaxation exists not only during the school year. It creeps into the holiday season as well.

      After weeks of preparing for midterms, we experience a sort of shock as we face two weeks free of responsibilities. After programming our brains to work non-stop for a semester, the sudden switch leaves us disoriented.

      We feel as if something is missing and struggle to relax even during the holiday season. We scramble to find busywork or something “productive” to do. Instead of winding down, we worry about our future.

      We have winter break for a reason. Not only does it allow us to celebrate the holidays with our families, but it also gives us a chance to recharge and catch up on sleep before the upcoming semester. If we spend all of our break working and stressing, then we will be less productive come January, due to lack of sleep and energy.

      Relaxation and self-indulgence over the holidays should not be a source of guilt. Rather, they should be embraced.

     There are lots of ways to relax and recharge. From napping to reading to listening to music; the possibilities are endless.

     “For me, I take a nap,” MacInnis said. “If I’m not feeling it, then the nap is absolutely my go-to. Sometimes I’ll cook something. Whether it be a plate of pasta, some eggs or even a can of soup, something about getting up and cooking takes the edge off a little bit.” 

     If lying in bed all day seems too lazy for your liking, exercising can also be very replenishing. Running, shooting hoops at the basketball court or taking dance classes are just some of the many ways to blow off steam while remaining active.

     The next time you feel guilty for enjoying the downtime you so deserve this winter, put down what you’re doing and step outside. Sit in the grass. Feel the crisp air. Listen to the birds. Look at the stars. If it’s a good day, celebrate it. If it’s a bad one, remind yourself that it probably won’t matter 15 years from now. Everything is going to be okay, so be kind to yourself.

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Even relaxing stresses me out