Opinion: Opinion: Count Your Ulcers To Sleep

Photo Credit: Becca Sanchez

(Posed) A student becomes overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done.

Stress. It’s a common and overarching terror in the lives of citizens across the globe. As high school students, we know it well: worrying about college acceptance, staying up late, studying, doing homework, juggling schoolwork and sports and social life – the list goes on. But besides the suppressive feeling of stress, it is seriously detrimental to health. Hardly getting any sleep, pumping yourself with caffeine and feeling constant distress about the state of your life doesn’t just take a toll on your sanity – it takes a serious toll on your body and your health.

Excessive stress and lack of sleep can cause frequent headaches, tremors, neck and back pain, muscle spasms, dizziness, excess sweating and blushing, increased risk of contracting infections, stomach pain and nausea, panic attacks, ulcers, sudden changes in appetite/mood, acne, weight gain, and so much more.

As of late I personally identify with the stomach aches and nausea. For the past several months, I’ve had chronic stomach pain. Every moment of every day I’ve been in minor to severe pain. I finally went to the doctor, and while I hadn’t yet developed an ulcer, my stress was causing a serious health condition. My doctor gave me Pepcid to decrease the amount of acid in my stomach to hopefully ease my pain that was preventing me from fully engaging in daily activities.

If I had taken control sooner and made sleep a priority, making time to relax and not worry about what I need to get done, planning my time wisely, respecting my body and its needs, and being less tough on myself, I wouldn’t have experienced so much physical and emotional distress.

I know, as a bit of a perfectionist and a control freak, it’s extremely hard to ask for help and listen to yourself. You probably make excuses to not do these things. You probably tell yourself, “I’m too busy to sleep! I’m young, I’ll just bounce back and be fine and just more sleep over the weekend.” While you may justify these actions by being a teenager, habits will follow you into adulthood. You’ll be far more likely to lose control at your job or around your family, and if you don’t try to fix these habits now it’ll only be harder to fix them later on.

The following are some helpful tips to try and control stress level as well as improve overall health!

  1. Set a bedtime “window”, as I like to call it. I know setting a bedtime at our age seems silly and sometimes impossible, and I agree wholeheartedly. This is why setting a bedtime window will be easier to stick to. I’ll give you an example: I have difficulty going to sleep before 10:30 on a normal day, but I don’t want to stay up late so I’ll set my bedtime window from 10:30 to 11 or 11:30 depending on how much work I have to do. Setting a bedtime will help you get the sleep you need and you won’t feel as drained anymore!
  2. Drink lots of water! Everyone always tells you to drink water, but it’s actually extremely beneficial and necessary for your body to function. If you drink your “8 glasses a day” then you’ll have a faster metabolism, your skin will clear up, and this will also help prevent you from getting excessively tired! If your body was a car, water would be the gasoline; your body NEEDS water to work at the top of its game. So next time you reach for a soda, get some good ole H2O instead!
  3. This one goes hand-in-hand with cutting down on soda: try cutting processed foods out of your diet and stick with foods that have one ingredient (or at least ingredients you can pronounce!). Those ingredients on wrappers that you can’t read that sound like another language are more often than not chemicals. Those chemicals are bad for you and your body does bad things with them! They slow down your metabolism and make you even more tired. I would suggest that in your late-night desperation for study food, don’t just grab something out of the snack cupboard, make some eggs (they hardly take any time), grab some fruit, and leave those chips by the wayside.
  4. Exercise! I know you may think that this would be counter-productive to not getting tired and keeping your energy intact but exercise is a proven stress-reliever! If you do even 30 minutes of exercise 2-3 times a week you’ll feel your stress level go down because when you exercise you release endorphins which make you feel happy. When your “bedtime window” comes around, you’ll be able to get to sleep faster because your body and mind will feel more inclined to get some rest after pumping some iron!

So put those 4 easy tips to good use and implement them right away! If you decide today to get to sleep at a reasonable time, drink water, eat organic foods, and exercise a few times a week I can almost guarantee that you’ll be less stressed, happier, and healthier!