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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Shopping for Truth: Relaxation Education

Published: March 7, 2008
Section: Opinions

Ah, stress, that evil six letter word. I know that if you’re anything like me, you’re feeling a wee bit stressed with midterms, papers, etc. that are progressively piling up. Sometimes, I feel like it’s an epidemic and there’s no way out of work. I often say we’re working machines, and it would seem that some other people do too, and realize that we need to do something about it.

Reading an article entitled “Stressed-Out teens get lessons in relaxing” in the Boston Globe the other morning, I was struck how crazy the whole thing really is. Get this concept. Schools around the state are taking a page out of the book of New England prep schools and are implementing what the Boston Globe calls “mind-body relaxation training.” These kids are stressed out to the extreme due to school, jobs, extracurricular activities, and life in general. Sound familiar? The sad thing is, these kids haven’t even reached college yet. Just think of what awaits them at whatever university they decide to attend.

Schools are currently teaching relaxation techniques to their students in an earnest effort to relieve some of their mounting stress levels. This is a great idea, but also a sad one. I find it somewhat sad that even our high school students are acting like adults, academically at least, personally is another story.

We’re training children at an earlier age that if they want to succeed, they need to work hard. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that ideal. In fact, it’s what the “American dream” is based on.

Whoever said hard work builds character sure was right. There’s just something about setting a goal for yourself and finally accomplishing it after a lot of hard work. Let me tell you, if there’s one thing school has taught me, it’s discipline. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do that paper you’d rather forget about.

But there’s a limit to any person’s work ethic. And do we really think that setting the bar so high is actually helping us? Everyone gets to the point where they just can’t do it anymore. Everyone needs some “me” time when they can be totally non-academic and superficial. That’s our right as human beings.

We all need to recharge sometime. But it seems like we don’t even have the time to that these days. As one student quoted in the article said “I honestly don’t want to take the time to [relax] when I have to finish an English paper.”

Sad, but true. Who among us hasn’t sacrificed some sleep or fun to cram for that exam or finish that pesky paper? It’s a necessary aspect of academia, some would say. But not when it comes at the expense of your health-physical or mental.

I’ve always believed that my well-being is more important than any grade I could ever get. In the end, if I get an A and end up in an institution because I’m crazy, who wins: the school or me? Somehow, I don’t think I’m boasting the blue ribbon in this case.

So what do we do? I’m always telling my friends that they need to take care of themselves before anything else. We all do too much, we’re all guilty of overextending ourselves, but we can all take control of our lives. And if that means studying a half an hour less, or dedicating an hour less to that paper so we can catch up on sleep, I say do it. I know I do, and my grades don’t suffer for it.

In fact, when you take the time to recharge and unwind, you’re actually more productive. I know when I’ve had a full night’s sleep, I’m ready to face the day, but if I don’t, I’d best not be around other people first thing in the morning.

And here’s another concept: maybe, just maybe consider lightening the workload just a tiny bit. I’m not proposing some revolutionary concept or anything, just suggesting something that might benefit us all a little bit more. A few pages here, a reading there cut out of the curriculum actually does so much more good than people may realize.

There is such high pressure on high school students to get the “right grades,” or get into the “right college,” as Paul Richards, principal of Needham High says in the article. But I’d like to ask who it is that defines what is right? Is an A- for me wrong if someone else gets an A? What about a B?

Everyone is different and we all have different comfort zones and capabilities. In the end, it’s about doing what’s right for you. So stop worrying and start living. Do you really think you’ll remember what you got on that paper when you’re 5o years old? And if you do, we probably need to sign you up for this relaxation training. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find me some “me” time.