Sunburns and homework aren’t the only things to worry about this summer semester. No matter the season, stress has negative effects on the body, and it is important to take time to relax.
According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 54 percent of Americans are concerned about their level of stress. Each person responds differently to stress, but no matter the individual, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that prolonged stress can kill brain cells and prevents the formation of new ones.
This creates a vicious loop of stress within the body. Having no new brain cells prevents the body from responding to stress, which then makes the body feel even more stress.
Hannah Eaton, a psychology major at Weber State University, opted not to take classes during the summer due to the stress from previous semesters.
“I took two full semesters in the fall and in the spring. After finishing with finals, it’s hard; you need a break. Classes and finals are stressful.”
Stress can also impair the ability to process information. According to Health and Human Services, stress affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the area responsible for abstract thought, cognitive analysis and memory.
Stressful events or situations can also prompt the body to create stress hormones that cause what the John Hopkins Medicine Hospital calls broken-heart syndrome. Even though broken hearts are usually thought of as the result of a tough breakup or the death of a loved one, the stress hormones produce a rush of adrenaline that enlarge the heart and mimic the feelings of having a heart attack.
While broken-heart syndrome is less common, recent studies from the National Institute of Allergies of Infectious Diseases suggest a tie between stress and the body’s ability to fight off infections. According to the report, even small infections, such as a cold, can become very serious when the body is already under large amounts of stress from outside sources.
According to the American Institute of Stress, stress can also have a variety of other effects. These can be smaller effects such as muscle spasms, heartburn, nervousness, fatigue or hives, or more serious effects such as insomnia, weight gain or loss, or even possibly degenerative neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
In order to lessen the damages of stress and to even improve memory, Health and Human Services suggests relaxation. Lexi Hurst, a staff member at the WSU Stress Relief Center, agreed.
“(Even) if you just sit in a chair and shut your eyes, you will be rejuvenated and so much more motivated throughout the day because you took that time to relax,” Hurst said.
Even just a few minutes of relaxation can lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, improve concentration and reduce frustration, the Mayo Clinic reported.
“Just five minutes will help so much,” Hurst said.
For when stress does become a problem for Wildcats, the Stress Relief Center, located on campus in the Swenson Gym Complex, is free to students. From massage chairs to chi machines and inversion tables, a variety of free stress-relieving techniques are available.
Although no one wants to admit it, summer does eventually come to an end. What many don’t realize is that taking a break and relaxing during the summer is actually helpful.
“I think that it’s important to give your brain time to relax and your body time to heal and recuperate,” Eaton said.