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Stressing big time

Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 29, 1999
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Jennifer Menditch
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Sophomore Julien Koubi stretches at the student recreation center after a long day of classes.

As we enter the home stretch of yet another year, the deadlines, tests, and subsequent stress amass to astronomical levels. Seniors can testify to the overwhelming hysteria surrounding a thesis, while the rest of us go into shock at the mere mention of the word "exam."

Psychologists know that some levels of stress are needed for our survival. For example, in the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood, being chased by the wolf caused Red a little stress. Thus, she ran. Without this instinct of stress the basket of goodies never would have made it to Granny's house.

While some stress is healthy and necessary for self-preservation, studies have shown stress plays a role in heart disease, depression, anxiety, smoking, alcoholism, substance abuse, cancer, skin, and a plethora of infections and immune system disorders. These diseases work symbiotically with stress; they cause each other and propagate one another.

So, stress is inevitable, and like almost everything else in life, too much is bad for you. Yet with concerns over papers, projects, professors and nuclear war, what's a student to do? Well, relax if you can, Catalyst is here to help. We sent out several reporters to investigate and audition the best of the stress busters out there. Between herbs, video games, acupuncture, exercise, and the ever-popular alcohol, there is at least one cure for everyone. We also included some interesting (although not necessarily effective) remedies from students. Pick your favorite and prepare yourself for smooth sailing.


Jennifer Menditch
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Chiropractor/Acupuncturist Dr. Thomas Surro demonstrates Acupuncture on his son Eli Surro yesterday afternoon at the Desert Chiropractic Clinic.

Enticing aromas

Anyone interested in the world of nice-smelling lotions knows that a variety of aromatherapy treatments are out their to cure what ails, including stress. Lotions, candles, bath gels, soaps, even linen sprays exist to send you into a state of calm bliss just by inhaling their scents.

"We incorporate the use of essential oils, which are natural oils," said Stephanie Bourn from the Body Shop in the Tucson Mall. "Through centuries of use, they have been found to be very calming and relaxing and soothing - things like peppermint."

The closest place to campus to find such miraculous potions is Bath and Body Works on University Boulevard. There I found an entire line of products called Stress Relief, one of which was a body lotion whose smell was so incredibly good I wanted to eat the entire bottle. It's not just peppermint, it's cucumber and a whole bunch of other yummy-smelling things that instantly put you in a place where there are no cars trying to run you over on your bike, no professors preaching about literary theory, no exams clouding up the clear blue skies. I'm not joking or elaborating when I say my head was cleared so completely and so quickly I lost the ability to speak clearly.

I must have really needed to be stress-relieved, because Bourn pointed out that "If you don't like a smell it's just kind of a sign that your body doesn't need that benefit."

But don't worry if you are stressed out and peppermint makes you gag. There's still hope, Bourn said.

"I always tell people that there's such a wide variety of natural fragrances that you're gonna find something that will work for you."- annie holub

Sweating it out

I have always viewed people who use exercise as a form of stress relief with trepidation and awe. The idea of combining strength and weight loss with maintenance of mental sanity strangely reminds me of that Tums commercial. You know, the one where they proudly proclaim that "Tums has calcium, something my body needs anyway."

Not that I don't ever work out. I admit that at least three to four times a week you can find me on the elliptical glider, sweating it out to the big booty stylings of Sir Mix-A-Lot while ogling muscular frat boys.

Yet to do this and somehow feel relieved of my stress over deadlines seemed as elusive as an Academy Award for Pamela Anderson. That was, until I embarked on the Nia class. We were instructed to take off our shoes and socks and then we engaged in a variety of mellifluous body movements, all the while breathing deeply. The class was somewhat like yoga meets Pee Wee's Playhouse, since participants are told to move in whatever way they please.

After an hour of flailing about and running around like a 3-year-old, I did feel less stressed. Although it is not an aerobic activity, and thus doesn't burn fat, the Nia class was a great way to unwind and still keep that body moving, as opposed to my other stress-coping method, Ben and Jerry's. - rebecca missel

Chloe tries Siberian ginseng and encounters a very large water snake

Siberian ginseng will keep you calm during your finals without lowering your energy. No other ginseng will do the same thing.

At least, that's what a friendly employee at Wild Oats told me when I asked her about herbal remedies to combat stress. She asked about my symptoms, and I had to lie. The truth is that I am probably one of the least stressed-out people I know. Even in anticipation of finals, I'm cool as a cucumber.

In the name of public service, though, I downed two big wheat-colored caplets. If it were finals week and I were a big ball of stress, it would be necessary to repeat this ritual three times a day.

Less than an hour after taking the ginseng, I started to get a mean headache. Then I felt jumpy and excited and generally giddy. That must have been what the Wild Oats girl meant by "it will keep your energy up." Even normal noises made me flinch. It was as though I had had several cups of coffee.

I felt better after eating something, but a few hours later all I wanted to do was go to sleep.

Siberian ginseng did little to calm my nerves, but then, my nerves don't really need calming. My no-stress remedy? Good genes. - chloe lung

The point of the problem

For thousands of years, the Chinese people have used acupuncture to cure a variety of health ailments. I must admit to some skepticism about homeopathic methods in general, but my recent stress levels warrant exploring new alternatives. Thus, in the spirit of discovery I went to Dr. Tom Surro, a local acupuncturist, to learn more about how acupuncture works.

"Naturally the body strives to maintain homeostasis, however outside influences such as stress take your body off balance," Dr. Surro explained. "The needles enter certain points on the body across 12 meridians that stimulate certain areas of the brain and either block or produce hormones."

One of acupuncture's most common uses is for drug addiction and other chronic illnesses, yet practitioners recommend a visit to a hospital for any emergency situation.

Still a little cautious, I ask Dr. Surro for the basic facts on a typical acupuncture treatment. "Most patients take about 15-20 minutes per session, during which time we use anywhere from 6-12 needles," he said. "The number of sessions depends on the patient's lifestyle and ailments."

The cost for an acupuncture session ranges anywhere from $38-100 a session. However, Campus Health Services offers acupuncture for only $15 a session. Call 621-6490 to schedule an appointment.

Considering this unusually low cost, anyone possessed with enough bravery and time (the first session takes about 45 minutes) to try acupuncture should make an appointment to try it out. - rebecca missel

Carting with Mario

When I prepare for finals, there's only one thing that can help me, and it comes in a little gray box.

Super Mario Kart.

Not the putrid Mario Kart 64, mind you. Just the original for the old Super Nintendo. Mario Kart 64 is what "Godfather III" is to "Godfathers" I and II - a rancid, incompetent sequel to a classic series.

I'm convinced that playing Kart improves my finals grades much more than staring at a book or notes would.

The logic goes like this: Studying is useless because you're just jamming information that you've already learned into your head. It's already in there somewhere, and pulling all-nighters isn't the way to bring the stuff to the surface.

What really brings the inane knowledge to the surface is meditation - the soft, easy quality time spent on the open road of Super Mario Kart.

My problem is that I suck. I can't beat anyone who's ever played the game for more than two weeks consistently. Even my friend's eight-year-old brother Petrark owns me in that game.

I think it's because of the character I use - Luigi.

I asked Luigi why it is that he has trouble beating Toad, a character that is obviously slower than him.

"It's-a not my fault," Luigi replied. "This Toad, he's a mushroom-shaped disgrace to the world of go-cart racing. It's-a not my fault. It's-a you, you bastard! You're-a the one that controls me. You're incompetent!"

All right. I didn't really interview Luigi. He's just a computer-generated character, nothing more. But you could imagine what it would be like if I did. - by phil villarreal

On the house

As college students, picking up a beer or mixed drink can become as habitual as picking up a pen for class. The more habitual the former becomes, however, the less the latter becomes. We can find every excuse to tip one back, from celebrations to sadness, boredom to breaking a fingernail. And as the semester winds up, stress rears its ugly head. Make mine a double.

"Students have many misconceptions regarding drinking," said Dan Reilly, Prevention Specialist with Health Promotion and Preventive Services. "Many have a "party hard/study hard" mentality, where they think they can get it out of their system. This is dead wrong. When you go nuts like that, you are changing the chemical composition of the brain, and with alcohol it will take 36-48 hours for your brain to return to normal function. Pot stays with you for three weeks. If a student uses Dead Day as an excuse to party, for example, all he or she is essentially doing is losing a couple good study days. It's the student's choice whether they decide to fall behind or get ahead."

But who's ever said that students make wise choices? In our local pubs, countless numbers of students choose to ignore these persuasive facts by dealing with their stress in the traditional way: drowning. The bars make a killing from the likes of Matthew, a UA senior who punctuated his name with a soft, airy belch. Propped up on a bar stool and contemplating his pint in an hypnotic trance, his opinions on the subject were impassioned, strong, and very hard to understand.

With that he downed the brew and nodded toward the bartender like a gambler nods "hit me" to a blackjack dealer.

At this state of inebriation, cares really can leave you, you're at the top of the world, no longer fearing those silly little exams. Hell, sometimes it can be good medicine. Unfortunately, unless you have plans of perpetual drunkenness, those silly exams and other stressful events grow with every drink, waiting for sobriety to bite the hell out of you. Cheers.

- kevin dicus

From the students mouths

"Four words: Pink Floyd real loud," advises environmental science junior Bernie Velasco.

Anyone crazy enough to major in math probably has to deal with a lot of stress. Freshman Rachel Graves recommends doing something "insane, life swimming in the fountain at Old Main."

Ron McCullough, knows stress - he's a senior double majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. When stress from writing his thesis piles up, he likes to "beat the hell out of freshmen." We hope this is cathartic somehow.

"I yell at sports officials," says Kathy Danielek, a pre-med/physiology sophomore. "I take out aggression and it feels good."

Don't try this at home. Here's the preferred method of entrepreneurship freshman Stephanie Albright: "I eat everything in sight, then I feel guilty so I work out, but then since I've been so busy I'm more stressed because the work has piled up."

Argh. Senior psychology major Angela Taylor has it all figured out. "I work well with stress and usually study last minute. Then when I do study I take lots of breaks and naps. Also, chocolate and ice cream work well."

- rebecca missel