Our brains are capable of amazing things. They can heal themselves; takeover for body parts that have stopped working; and generate every move, thought and breath we take. Our brains help us absorb all of the knowledge we need to become audiology and speech-language pathology professionals; and allow us to share that knowledge with our clients, patients, and peers.
Our brains also protect us from things that could harm us—our “fight, flight, or freeze” response in the amygdala. This can be triggered by the great deal of stress we feel as a student and new clinician.
Fight, Flight, or Freeze
When your brain senses stress, it perceives it as a threat, triggering that “fight, flight, or freeze” response. Too much stress can cause feelings of anxiety, being overwhelmed or burned out, and can sometimes become chronic. When your brain senses stress, you feel more stressed … and the cycle continues.
As a student, this may make you feel argumentative about a grade, want to procrastinate studying for an exam, or forget all of the material you did study once the test is handed out. It’s your brain’s way of protecting you from the stress—but this often backfires.
So, how can you break the cycle to manage stress better?
Mindfulness and Positivity
By harnessing the power of mindfulness and positivity, you can rewire your brains response to stress, training it to break the cycle.
By focusing on the positive, instead of the “threats,” you’ll be able to:
- stop the spiral of thoughts that often come with stress,
- boost the efficiency of your work (both as a student and future clinician),
- improve your clarity and help you focus better, and
- create a much-needed balance between work, school, and your personal life.
5 Tips to Focus on the Positive and Manage Stress
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep means your brain has the time it needs to restore and turn off some of the negative responses (like stress) from the day. Try getting to bed 10 minutes earlier and aim for around 8 hours—even when you are studying! It’ll help you focus better and be more efficient.
- Move: Walking, running, yoga, or dancing can help you to break through moments of feeling “stuck.” Movement helps get your blood flowing and energy moving, which can trigger your brain to take a break from ruminating on a stressful situation. Movement also helps you to breathe deeper, which helps refresh your body and brain.
- Nourish: If we don’t eat, we can’t function—but that means nutrient-dense, fresh foods, with healthy fats, protein, and carbs, not greasy pizza! Skipping meals or eating foods that lack nutrients can make it more difficult to digest and absorb nutrition, which means your body works harder and leaves you less energy for the rest of your daily activities. Your gut is also referred to as your “second brain,” since the vagus nerve connects the two directly. Better nutrition means more energy and a clearer head.
- Write It Down: Writing down your top 3 moments (or just 3 things that made you smile) in a gratitude journal every day will help you clear your head and focus on the positive, not the negative, and will end your day on a positive note.
- Meditate: Meditation helps reduce the response to stress in your amygdala, decreases the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body, improve your focus, and decrease stress from multitasking since you’re just focused on one thing (meditating!). Try sitting for 5-10 minutes with a guided meditation audio or mantra, or simply focus on your breath.
As students and pre-professionals, you’re no-doubt stressed out. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Try one or all these tips and before you know it, you’ll feel less anxious and have a clearer head space, become more efficient, and create a much-needed balance between school, work, and your personal life.