Friends

Being Mindful: Coping with the Stresses of a Student’s Life

Students may face a different kind of stress compared to people who work. Before college, the school day ends at a certain time, but with homework, studying, and projects, there doesn’t really seem to be a definitive end to the school day. After high school, the division between the school day and the rest of the day blurs even further when there is always something we could be studying or reading for.

 

In this kind of environment, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with work and stress. On top of that, students of all ages might feel competition among their friends, further complicating the school and social life balance. What are some tips for managing these stressors?

 

Get Organized. Juggling all our commitments in our head is unnecessarily stressful. There are many physical planners and productivity apps available to help us manage deadlines and test dates. Choosing one that works for you might take some time, but will definitely pay off in the long-run! The key is not to let the planner/organizer stress you out further. Each day can begin or end with a recap of things to do, and crossing off accomplished tasks can be really satisfying! Planners can also help you avoid overbooking yourself.

 

Get Help, If You Need. This could simply mean asking a friend or teacher for help on understanding a new concept covered in class. This could also mean asking a trusted adult or advisor for help navigating changes difficult to face alone: a parent, a doctor, or a teacher are all great starting points for questions about politics, gender and sexuality, or social phenomena we see everyday. The internet is full of information and can be a tempting go-to but it’s easy to get lost in a sea of opinions out there.

 

Breathe. This is meant both literally and figuratively - we need to relax! In our fast-paced lives, it takes effort and planning to do so. Taking a few minutes each day (such as signing up for the eMindful Challenge) to try some meditation techniques can help us clear our mental clutter, which can make facing the next task easier. If meditation isn’t for you, that’s okay - there are other ways to relax productively such as putting down your smartphone for at least a few minutes. Some of our friends use cooking, baking, exercising, reading, writing, just to name a few, as ways to decompress. The point is to challenge yourself to do something that you might continue to benefit from. For example, if you make a healthy snack now, it means you’re less likely to go grab fast food later. If you read a book by your favorite author now, you can remember it later and enjoy it then too.

 

Sarah is CHIL's lead blogger and currently a student at UPenn with plans to attend medical school in the future. To decompress, Sarah likes to go running or do crossword puzzles.

Friends for Life - They're Lifesaving

A quick Google search on friendships and its correlation to health results in many articles concerning the elderly, but a new study has focused on studying teens, for whom the conversation around mental health is especially important. Child Development recently found that close friends among adolescents can have lasting mental health benefits, which can be carried into adulthood, according to NPR.

 

The study, conducted over 10 years, followed 169 15-year-olds until they were 25-years-old. At age 15 and 16, researchers asked participants to record conversations with their friends. Teenage friends discussed the importance and level of trust and communication that was in their relationship at the time. Then, the participants completed annual surveys about their levels of anxiety and self-worth.

 

Researchers found that after 10 years, teenagers with strong, close friendships were more likely to report an improvement in anxiety and self-worth at age 25 than adults who did not have strong emotional links to their friends as teenagers. Stable friendships - especially same pairs of friends who showed up together year after year - seemed to provide participants with the greatest mental health gains.

 

The implications are fairly strong here. Teenagers who find support among each other are more likely to be able to weather challenges that they may face, according to the authors of the study. They also learn how to maintain close, important relationships from a young age, which lays the foundation for future healthy relationships.

 

At CHIL, our projects encourage friends to engage with each other as they participate in activities that can benefit their health. Friendships and teamwork go hand in hand, and a close friendship can be an extra incentive for children and students to invest time in themselves and each other. The importance of friends is a theme that pops up over and over again, but it should not become a cliche - it can really have an impact on a young person’s health in the long-term.

The Social Element to Running

A recent study done by researchers at the MIT Sloane School of Management has found that runners do influence each other in their training and workout routines, according to the New York Times. Researchers collected data on 1.1 million runners around the world who had collectively run almost 225 million miles over five years. Intuitively, we predicted that friends tend to have similar running routines day to day, over time, even in different geographic locations. But we have to consider correlation versus causation: do friends influence each other's’ running habits or do people choose running friends with similar habits?

 

The study found that runners do influence each other by pushing each other to run more. For instance, if a person ran 10 more minutes than usual on a given day, his or her friends would also increase the amount of time they ran by several minutes, even in the case of inclement weather (the MIT researchers also collected weather data for the five years that the runners were monitored.) In a running network, male runners seemed to be influenced by both their male and female friends, but female runners seemed to be almost exclusively influenced by their female friends. These trends could point to habits that form during young adulthood or even sooner when we respond to social cues within our friend groups, especially with respect to athleticism or body image.

 

Running is an ideal activity to collect data on because of its integration with devices that track activity and distance. Running can also easily be a social activity: we often run with buddies or engage in friendly competition with friends to increase stamina. More importantly, running is a sport that is often more accessible than other sports. As we continue to examine the influence friends play in forming healthy habits, we should also ask ourselves how we can use studies like this to help build healthy habits for our students.