“It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”

By: Gino Butler, Spring 2019 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern

For those who always have a plan, who are always organized, and who acknowledge that they can work on time management, not even they can escape the disease known as stress. Stress is inevitable! So, what happens to us physically and mentally when things go awry?

Common effects of stress can include, but are not limited to, headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, sleep deprivation, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Stress can even alter your behavior, resulting in overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, and social withdrawal.

Being in professional school and even with writing this blog post, I am not immune to stress either. Life is bound to put expectations, time limits, and pressure upon a person no matter what. I recall a time during my undergraduate years where I was so busy one week, I had exams, meetings, daily routine tasks, and I was getting ready for a big event I had been planning since the summer. I reached down to tie my shoes and when I tried to stand back up properly, I almost fell down. I was lightheaded and could not sustain my balance. In sitting down, taking a break, and answering concerned questions from my peers, I discovered that I had not consumed a meal or snack in three days. How could this be? For me, this sounded absurd, I could not think of going one day without eating. However, life’s external expectations, time limits, and pressure had been internalized. The things I had going on that week were my driving force. I wasn’t in control.

Have you ever watched someone exercise their talents in such an incredible way? I mean a time they did so well that they left you in disbelief. Think of your favorite singer performing live or a professional sports player. Many times we are in awe of their talent, but rarely do we think of the preparation process to execute what we witnessed.

I would like you to focus on a time when you saw someone run a sprint. It could be an informal or professional sprint. Now keep in mind, a sprint is a short running race. The runners get ready and put their all into the race at one speed, for they know it’ll be over soon and their driving force is to just win, to just win that one race. Now think about the heavy breathing, fatigue, thirst, and desire to sustain comfortability after they’re done. This is the usual behavior after a sprint. Of course, if it was a professional sprint, one would hope there was preparation before and a plan to sustain the track stars after, but what about you? What about us?

What happens when we put our all in for that one moment out of our entire life, and we are left with the aftermath of a sprint and no resolution? This is not to leave the impression that life will never present “sprints” to you. Just like stress, those “one off” moments are inevitable. However, I challenge you to define life as a marathon. When people run marathons, they prepare, they put time and energy into training for it, and they ultimately select their own pace and goals for the marathon. This prevents them from internalizing someone else’s external time, pressure, or expectations. Now apply that to life, and you will conquer it successfully.

Below are a list of five techniques to help reduce stress:

1) Take a break. Just step away and shift focus to something else. Do a hobby, listen to music, or drink soothing tea.

2) Sing. Perform a concert in your mirror. Create happiness by turning negative/overwhelming energy into positivity.

3) Journal. Write things in the moment that you are appreciative of. Consciously make an effort to take your attention away from stressors and onto things you are grateful for, since things can always be worse.

4) Breathe/Meditate. Breathe in slowly through the nose. Become aware of everything—the feeling of your lungs expanding, your heart rate slowing down, and your mind beginning to calm. Take this time to realize, this is just one of those “one off” moments, this is not your life.

5) ASK FOR HELP. It just happens, sometimes we bite off more than we can chew at one time. If you need assistance, don’t be too afraid, prideful, or embarrassed to get the help you need. Most people just need to know how and when you need the support.