I never knew how much I could learn from a bathroom stall. Sure, I’ve seen the common nasty ex-boyfriend remarks and Bible quotes, but a drawing in the last stall of the third floor bathroom in Mason Hall took a different approach, and let’s just say a picture is worth a thousand words. Above the toilet-paper dispenser were four stick figures labeled “Elementary School”, “Middle School”, “High School” and “College”. Each figure had a word or two next to it, and next to the moderately sized “College” figure were the words “stressed” and “unhappy”. Excuse me if I’ve been misinformed, but isn’t college supposed to be the best four years of your life?

Stress, though inevitably part of every college student’s life, shouldn’t be the defining aspect of anyone’s college experience. With tests to ace, social interactions to navigate and limited funds to budget, the college environment admittedly is one that fosters stress, but it doesn’t have to take over our lives. Because stress takes a toll on our bodies both physically and mentally, it’s vital that students take the time to address this problem and find ways to cope. So if you can see a reflection of yourself in this bathroom-stall stick figure, please read on, because a few simple stress-busting strategies can help make a difference.

1. “Endorphins make people happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands.”

While we hopefully aren’t dealing with issues as extreme as those that led to Elle Woods’s quote from “Legally Blonde”, the stress of finals, dealing with Ohio State fans and maintaining a social life can certainly feel this extreme at times. Endorphin-producing exercise should be a part of everyone’s school regime. Even if it’s just a short run (or walk around campus if this weather keeps up), a good workout can do wonders for the mind and body — not to mention help keep off that extra weight that’s almost inevitably put on with extra stress. When the weather isn’t so nice, students can visit either the Central Campus Recreation Building or the Intramural Sports Building, or take advantage of the many other options available in the Ann Arbor area.

2. Drink less, stress less.

We’ve all heard it, yet we somehow refuse to accept that alcohol is a depressant. Because we treat it as a stimulant, consuming large quantities in preparation for rambunctious sporting events and nights out, we often forget the drug’s more negative effects. But when you think about it, it seems rather intuitive that a substance that can make you physically sick just might add to your stress. I’m not saying drinking is all bad. In fact, frat boys of the world, you’ll be pleased to hear that alcohol in small doses can decrease stress in some situations — but let’s be honest, small doses aren’t exactly your forte.

3. Look to the University.

With a campus as big as ours boasting resources for virtually every one of your needs, there are of course campus resources to help students cope with stress. Students can visit websites such MiTalk, which discusses stress management and ways to help, or get involved with MHealthy’s stress busters, a program that offers more interactive ways to cope with stress.

4. Alternative Methods.

If this has all sounded rather cliché up to this point, I wouldn’t entirely disagree. Most of us know the common ways to deal with stress. However, there are many other less common ways to deal with stress that, though they attract skeptics, can be insanely beneficial. And campus seems to be catching on. Just a few weeks ago, I was handed a flyer on the Diag that advertised free meditation courses. I know this often elicits thoughts of sitting Indian-style with hands folded in lap (“I Dream of Jeannie”-esque), but learning to meditate can help calm chronic stress and be a useful tool to help make it through more situational stressors. Not to mention that it’s a lifelong skill that can be applied not only to school-related stress but to real-world stress as well (and goodness knows what’s in store for us out there).

If meditation isn’t your thing, an even more out-there way to cope with stress is with ancient Chinese acupuncture. You might wonder why anyone would pay to be stuck with needles (just as I did before I tried it), but believe me those needles work miracles. Whether it’s stress, common colds, lingering aches and pains or virtually anything else, acupuncture is becoming the go-to treatment for many tired of more traditional treatments. I am a convert.

So there you have it, from working out to acupuncture and meditation, there are both traditional and non-traditional ways to deal with stress. Keep these tips in mind, and if worse comes to worst, there’s always drawing on bathroom walls — I hear it’s a great way to de-stress.

Leah Potkin can be reached at lpotkin@umich.eduL

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