ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Category: Stress

No one has their life totally together in their 20s - even if their Instagram tells you differently.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to have everything together in our 20s? Where does that pressure come from and why do we care so much what other people think? I was talking to my family recently about attending high school reunions and my dad, who graduated high school in the 1960s, commented on how he didn't even bother to go to his 5th or 10th year high school reunion; he had noticed at that point in everyone’s lives that people were still trying to impress each other and it wasn't relaxing or fun. He said that the first reunion he wanted to go to was his 20th high school reunion because by then, when most people were older, they were more open to being honest about where they were and what was going on in their lives. Why was that? How come we feel pressure to live up to an idealized version of ourselves in our 20s and 30s? How come we care less when we are older? Is it because we have a lot more exposed vulnerabilities when we’re younger and are still trying to figure out where we want to live, what work we feel moved do in life, and who we want to spend our time with? While speaking with a fellow millennial, Casey, age 25, said, “I believe that we feel more vulnerable in our 20s about sharing where we are in life. We want to look like we have everything together. I even struggle with going back to high school to visit my teachers. I have this completely unrealistic idea of what I want them to see me doing and I am fearful that they will not be proud of me with anything less than that. I know it is ridiculous. It feels like there is so much pressure we put on ourselves that no one else puts on us.” After talking to a few other millennials, I started to wonder if we put pressure on each other partially because of social media.

Tommy, age 23, said, “Social media is like our new makeup. It’s the greatest way to hide pimples, life struggles, and hardships. Instead of showing people what is really going on, we just post cute pictures on Instagram of ourselves on the beach or at a restaurant eating our favorite meal. When I see other people on social media look like they have their life more together than I do, I feel like I have to compete with them.”

The truth is that we are the ones who put the most pressure on ourselves to live up to our own unrealistic expectations. The only thing that ultimately benefits you is being honest with yourself and others about where you are in life. Unrealistic expectations are a distraction from actually experiencing your life. Leave those expectations with your younger self and accept that, while it’s really great if you’re doing something cool, you don’t have to freak out if you aren’t. Cool stuff will happen as time goes on and you don’t need to make stuff up to be the type of person you want to be.

The Power of Feeling Powerless

Stress-270409You know the feeling. You’ve gotten horrible news. You’re standing at the scene of an accident. You were just laid off. A few things may be happening at this moment. You may be feeling the acidic taste of adrenaline in the back of your throat. You might feel a tightness in your chest from the panic. You may also be feeling something else-- the dreaded knowledge and/or fear that you are powerless over the ensuing events. That can be one of life’s most horrible emotions. Part of the reason why is obvious: without power, how can we get out of situations? The other reasons it can feel so crushing are a bit more nuanced. As humans, we are used to being in control. When a person, a situation, or life in general takes power from us, that can lead to sadness, anger, even rage.

So what to do? Can we take the power back? The short answer is often no, but there are ways to manage the frustration. In an emergency there are certainly steps to be taken, whether it’s calling 9-1-1 or staying clear of danger. In a more personal situation, where no one is in imminent danger, it’s often best to rely on old stress-relief tactics: steady breathing, a quiet place, and the comfort of a loved one.

The Changing Family

We all know that the two parent, two child household is now just one of many, many combinations that make up a family. That said, how do we navigate traditional family dynamics with the new reality? What is the polite thing to call a former mother-in-law? Do you buy your step-dad a Father’s Day card? Do you continue to call your uncle’s husband your uncle? Do you have to have your half-sister in your wedding if you aren’t close? You’ll find all of the correct answers to these questions and more below:

Just kidding. For every familial relationship, for every holiday and reunion, for every plane ride back to your home town there is a new set of rules. So why not just stick to the basics:

When in doubt, be as kind as you can. Your step mom knows she’s not your mom, there is no need to remind her. Odds are, she’s not trying to be, she’s just trying to make you (and herself) feel as comfortable as possible. Why not indulge her? Instead of acting defensive around new family, no matter who they are, don’t punish them for not knowing you yet. Offer gracious thanks and try to interact.

Sometimes, it’s gonna be awkward. And that’s okay. If you are in a new relationship with someone who has kids or your elderly parent is getting remarried, whatever the case may be, there is plenty of uncharted territory. The only recourse is to accept this as a fact and try to move forward. That may even mean acknowledging the surprising nature of life, making a joke of it and pushing along.

New and “non-traditional” family can provide new and “non-traditional” love. The beauty of forging ahead into an uncharted family dynamic is that there aren’t a million examples all around you. This can feel lonely, but it can also be a good thing. Most people could talk for hours about their relationship with their mother, and it’s easy to compare and contrast which can often lead to one party feeling badly. But a blended family might have less to compare it to, leaving more room to avoid unnecessary hang-ups.

Just be yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a cliché, but it’s so true! Let these people in a little bit, show them who you are, and the family-like love we’re all supposed to feel for anyone who is remotely related to us, may flow more freely. Or it may not, but at least you can say you were kind, and that you tried.

Just Do It! Ways to feel the fear and do it anyway.

fear1Fear can be such a paralyzing little monster. We all have it, but why do some people seem to push through it, some thrive on it, and some hide under the bed while life passes them by? Odds are it’s a combination of each person’s personality and the specific fear they are facing. Here are a few tips to get through those paralyzing fears:

  1. The expression is true: We should “feel the fear.”      Ignoring it completely is a short-term solution to a long-term part of  life. IF we allow ourselves the time to feel fear, the eventual courage will come naturally, rather than the remorse that may come if we make decisions after ignoring fear.
  2. Ask Why. We should never ignore fear because there is always the chance that our fear is well-founded. Got butterflies about buying that house? Cold feel about getting married? Nervous about the new job? All of those feelings of nervousness are natural, but if that nervousness is really a deep-seated anxiety that never quiets itself, perhaps a re-examination of choices is in order.
  3. Try to recall the beginning. We should always reach back into our memories and try to deduce where the fear began. It might help us to discover whether or not our fear is a good enough reason to keep us from making a decision or life change. If the source of the fear is a memory of a time when a similar decision was made and things ended poorly, that may be a good reason to step back. It could also mean we’re projecting consequences of an unrelated situation onto our present life. Consequences that may not exist. For example, it’s all too easy to hold a new paramour accountable for an old love’s betrayals. And to fear the new intimacy, but there is a good chance the new lover won’t spurn us as the old one did.
  4. Hope. There are lots of studies about the power of wishful thinking, faith, and prayer. Whether our optimism comes from spirituality or just a positive attitude, much of what we know about the world indicates that the more good we put our there, we are more likely to receive in return. So think good thoughts before you dive in.

Fear is tricky business. Sometimes it’s intuition, sometimes it’s a trick the brain can play on us to encourage dormancy. One is self-protection; the other can hold us back. So how can we tell the difference? We can’t, but if we listen to both sides of our brains -- the one thatsays “no” and the one that says “yes”-- we can help make a more clear-eyed decision.

If fear is continually knocking at your door and paralyzing you, consider checking it out with a qualified health care practitioner in your area. Consult our Resources tab for ideas on where to seek help.



What if You Are the Bully?

We live in a world of snark. Online comments, rude texts, flippant snarkemails, and snappy comebacks are all part of daily life for most people. Often we are the on the receiving end of rude remarks, but sometimes we are the perpetrators. Why do we feel so justified when we come up with what we think is a clever retort to someone’s perceived deficiency? For starters, snark is cyclical. When we feel threatened or stung by someone else’s rudeness, we carry that with us and in turn often throw it at someone else. If we read something uncomfortable directed toward us on Facebook in the morning, we keep that with us when we leave the house, we wear a scowl, we snap at the Starbucks barista. Then the barista feels stung and tweets something uncouth to someone she barely knows, and so on and so on.

We also use wit, sass, and sometimes outright meanness to protect ourselves.  It’s a classic defense mechanism: we say something nasty before someone else does. There is also a flipside to this. In a world where we are constantly plugged-in, it can feel boring when nothing happens for minutes, even seconds. So in the online world, it’s easy to prod and provoke, all in the name of playing Devil’s Advocate.

How do we stop negative behavior? Cold turkey. Before you type, before you speak, before you roll your eyes far back enough that you can see your own brain: think. Who benefits from what you are about to say? If the person you are saying it to doesn’t benefit in any way, stop and take a moment. Close your laptop, turn off your phone, shut your mouth and breathe. It’s a beautiful day.

Making up for our old wrongs

We’ve all done something nasty to someone. We all have at least one regret about how we’ve treated a stranger, a friend, or a loved one. More often than not, an apology (even a belated one) can mean a lot to the injured party. A heartfelt, apologysincere “I’m sorry” goes a long way in repairing relationships. But what if it doesn’t work? What if you hurt someone and they are not ready to accept your apology? That’s okay. It’s tough and it can make us feel heartbroken and vulnerable, but it is not our apology to accept. Once an apology is out there, hanging in the air, it’s no longer ours. The injured party has every right to reject apologies or even good wishes. This is one of the truest hardships about human relationships- there is no rewind button. If we are lucky the person we hurt will accept our regrets with warmth and strength, but sometimes the hurt is too deep, even if we never intended to cause any pain.

So how do we accept a refusal? Breathe in, breathe out and let it go. An apology is truly sincere if the goal is not for the other person to blindly accept it, but if the issuer is remorseful. Once a sincere apology has been put out there, all we can do is let it be.  With any luck, the other person will accept it and you can move on together. If not, you can still move on.

How Millennials can get the respect we deserve

millennials-360 We’ve all heard it. From teachers or journalists, politicians or parents: the “Millennials” are lazy. We lack direction, we’re unfocused. We’re spoiled andcan’t detach from the teat of society. We are over-educated, under-achieving, couch potatoes. We’re too obsessed with social networking to really DO anything.

Is this perception true? If not, how do we reverse the perception, and if so, how do we reverse ourselves? First we must acknowledge that the assumption isn’t totally out of left field. As a generation we do spend more time on phones and computers than any other, and many of us are unemployed or underemployed. That said, there are many encouraging trends for people born between 1980 and 2000. Constant connection to the internet means constant connection to the world.  For example, Twitter is more than just a way for celebs to connect with each other. It’s aided in major protests all over the world by, keeping people connected. Social networks have allowed a platform for debate, and a forum for questions between politicians and voters. And who are those asking the questions? That group is largely made up of people under 35. We are also using these tools to market ourselves. Millennials have an innate understanding of the forward momentum of technology, and are often ahead of the curve. Musicians, writers, researchers, fundraisers, and entrepreneurs all have ways to broadcast their message and their brand for free.

It’s also true that we buy things. A lot of things. From iPads to skinny jeans, Millennials have an incredible buying power. This is a sticky wicket, because we also live with our parents longer than any generation before us, so where is all of this money coming from? Shouldn’t it be going toward paying our student loans, or putting down a security deposit on an apartment? You’d be hard pressed to find someone to say no, but it’s also true that buying power has the word “power” in it for a reason. We’re trend-setters, meaning that we have the power to advocate for socially, ethically, and fiscally responsible items. When the popular crowd makes a good-hearted decision, the trend will spread- as it has with the popularity of hybrid cars, ethically made goods, and organic food.

As a generation, we tend to fall on the educated side. This can be tough because the demand for certain types of education rise and fall with the state of the economy and innovation trends (think tech, financial, and automotive industries- each with specified training, and their own ups and downs in the last 15 years). But we sometimes forget that school offers more than just a degree or a course of study. Our experiences, in and out of a university setting, shape who we are and can be used to give us a leg up. Social skills, public speaking, time management and a host of other skills are all part of higher education, and can help you create the best career for yourself.

Millennials are blessed with another characteristic: energy. Boundless energy is our best friend and our most powerful ammunition in the desire to move the world forward. We can use our connections, our social media skills, our degrees, our savings to create the world we’ve envisioned for ourselves, but none of those things will get us very far without the fervor of youthful energy.

Much of the world is in the hands of Millennials and it’s a trend that won’t end for decades, so we’d better get used to it. We’re often handed greeting cards, posters, or refrigerator magnets urging us to heed Gandhi’s words and “Be the change we want to see in the world,” so let’s do just that. Even if we’re using Kickstarter to get there.

So You Haven’t Reached Your Goal Yet- It’s OK, You Will

  We live in an incredibly fast-paced world. It can seem like people are out- GoalPicaccomplishing us every minute, personally and professionally. Even if you are not a person with set goals for one year, five years, or twenty years out, there can still be a nagging voice behind your eyes saying, “You should have done that by now”. While that feeling is understandable and can feel very depressing, the reality is: there is no finite set of rules for living as an adult.

School and work are by nature competitive environments- and that’s not a bad thing. Competition can keep us striving for more productive and effective ways to complete tasks, and ultimately result in a better world. Competition in sports teaches us endurance, perseverance, and teamwork--- all vital qualities in human relationships off the field. But there is also a dark side to competition as it can leave many folks feeling left behind. And if we’re feeling irretrievably behind, what’s to keep us from giving up and not trying at all?

First things first. Let’s get rid of any “should-haves” in our heads right now. As humans, we are blessed with free will, but we (despite our best efforts) do not control the universe. You may not get married, get the promotion, get the degree, have the baby, make the team exactly when you thought you would but that doesn’t mean you won’t do it. We could sit down and painstakingly plan for hours how our lives will unfold, but the universe will always have surprises in store.

It’s also helpful to remember that some of the folks we consider so accomplished weren’t child prodigies; that the already woven fabric of their lives led them to what made them famous. From Superman creator Stan Lee to Pop Star Cyndi Lauper to Alan Rickman (Professor Snape himself) - there are a slew of well-known folks who were far older than their counterparts in the same field when they became well-known.

Not only can we ditch by the roadside our preconceived notions about when things should happen, we can also accept that our personal priorities change all the time. And guess what? That’s OK, too. Our goals are our own, and only we have the power to push them forward into reality.

Dream, think, plan, act, react. It’s the cyclical deliciousness that makes us human. It deserves our embrace, in addition to our constant frustration. What new goals can you set today? Rather than giving yourself a due date for completion of those goals, determine the first task that needs to be completed to achieve it. Take a deep breath, and begin.

Beating the Stigma of Being the “Odd One Out”

Can we be frank? Young adulthood can suck. It can be wonderful and perhaps the best years of our life, but that doesn’t make them easy. This is the age we can so easily be trapped between the rules of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. It’s easy to get excited when school is a thing you look back on, but without the safety and structure of the institution of a high school or college, playing by society’s rules can be tricky. We live in a world where statistics play an incredibly important role in assessing our self-image. We hear about them all the time. An article recently hit the media stating that the amount of money a person should be making per year is equal to their age in years, and if you are “good” at what you do, you should make double your age. Is that what we measure ourselves against?

Another recent study says that the average age of marriage continues to rise for young men and women. Another notes the rise in couples who cohabitate before marrying. Again, are we pressured to conform to the “average.”

The problem with these statistics is that it’s incredibly easy to read them and feel out of place.

Perhaps you are unmarried in your mid-twenties, and are feeling like the only single person in your peer group. Perhaps at 27 you are making $25,000 per year.  Perhaps you and your spouse did not live together before tying the knot. Statistics are meant to help us better understand our society, and the needs and characteristics of the people in it. But when you pin down an “average,” statistics do a funny thing: they make anyone outside that small bubble feel like an outsider, and anyone inside the bubble feel ordinary.

So how do we go about our lives and think of statistics as what they were intended to be? It starts with the way we view others. Freeing ourselves from negative judgment when encountering peers who don’t fit into a box designated as “average” helps us connect and be more considerate. If most of your friends don’t have kids, but a close friend is a new mom, consider her feelings before planning a last-minute trip for all your friends.  If you’re getting married as a friend is divorcing, recognize the challenges he may face at your wedding. The kindnesses will be remembered when you are the odd one out.

Perhaps when that newly divorced friend makes twice as much money as his age, he’ll pick up the next dinner check.

Going Home for the Holidays? How to keep your cool...

You walk in the door and your mother nags you about your hair.  Your father comments on your lack of drive.  Your uber-successful big brother rubs his new car in your face.  Sound familiar?  Why is it when we go home we somehow become a kid again?  We resume our childhood roles –the older responsible one, the rebel, the baby.  How can we get through the holidays without letting our family drive us crazy?  The first thing to remember is that families install and push each other’s buttons.  Don’t take things so personally.  Parents are parents and it’s a job that never stops.  Mothers especially have a language all their own.  It’s their job to turn us into productive members of society.  Think of the National Geographic shows where the mother lioness cuffs her cubs.  It’s the same thing.  If we think of nagging as a mother’s way of saying “I love you,” it takes the sting out of it.

Try non-reaction.  We can’t change our family but we can change how we react to them.  When we stop reacting, things change.  When we don’t engage and let our buttons be pushed, the roles tend to change naturally.   Like a radio station, try a 10 second delay.  Before you react to something, take a deep breath and exhale slowly.  You’ll be able to react more like an adult and less like a kid.

The Perfect Gift

No need to drive yourself crazy about presents. The holiday season hits and something comes over us.  We spend money we don’t have on presents no one probably even needs and stress ourselves out running from house to house or event to event.  We get angry when dinner burns or Uncle Ron gets drunk.  Why do we do it to ourselves?  Even Hollywood understands that the perfect holiday doesn’t exist.   

For one thing, our expectations get the best of us.  Perhaps if we know that something could happen to throw a wrench in things, we won’t be so upset when it happens.  It’s easier to go with the flow when we’re less rigid and when we remember the reason we are celebrating the holidays. “Holiday” comes from the words “holy days” as in, to make the day sacred, special, and peaceful.

The other thing is that we think that presents will let others know that we care-even if we can’t afford them.  Your presence is the best gift of all.  Instead of running around grabbing the last minute gifts or stressing over the money you don’t have, ask if you can help decorate, cook, bake, or set the table.  Ask about their childhood, holiday or other special memories.  Engage with those who are there.

Twenty years from now, no one is going to remember the gifts.  They will, however, remember the time and attention you spent with them because it will strengthen our family bonds and show others that we really do care about them.

Home for the Holidays – Sound Off

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, and I am thankful for all the support they have provided over the years. Regardless, they constantly drive me up the wall. And between the crying children and my aunt’s smooches and all the awkward small talk, Thanksgiving dinner can make me feel as though I’m losing my head. So how do I cope with the holiday season? One strategy I’ve used is to avoid alcohol. I find that when myself or others around me are in a drunken haze, it is much more difficult to have meaningful and fulfilling conversations. Additionally, I am much more prone to spilling something embarrassing about my boyfriend or guilty pleasure CD collection that I wouldn’t normally want my second cousin to overhear. Being sober also enables me to guide the conversation. By asking my family members questions about their lives, I am able to avoid the awkwardness that comes from being put on the spot. Last, I always make sure to establish an escape plan before dinner begins. One year, I made a deal that I would text my best friend S.O.S. if I needed her to call me so that I had an excuse to step outside. Another year, I planned to step into the living room to watch some football if I was finding dinner overwhelming.

Since I’ve begun employing these strategies, I’ve been able to calm down and appreciate my family members. What do you do to remain cool and collected during the holidays? Sound off below!


Sleeping with our phone under our pillows

We don’t want to miss anything.  Checking our phone is the first thing we do in the morning and the last thing we do at night.  I wonder if part of the uptick in anxiety and depression is related to our nervous system being bombarded increasingly from attention-seeking, sensory stimulating, electronic sources. as opposed to the more passive and subtle features of the natural environment. This tension – this hyper attention--- is intensified by the 24/7 incoming stream of news of traumatic events and images from all over the globe, as if this were happening in our front yard. Because of this flow of alarming information, our brains are constantly bathed in adrenaline and cortisol, the stimulants that ready the nervous system for dangers, real or imagined.

No wonder it feels to us like times are so tough, though we are living in the lap of relative luxury. Maybe we are so stressed because we are so wired?

Knitting Behind Bars

At the end of a long day, you just need to kick back and relax and forget your troubles... at least until tomorrow. Watch TV, have a glass of wine (if you’re 21, of course), or maybe just stare at the wall until it’s time to leave the house again. Next time, before you start that next episode of Hoarders or grab that second drink, consider trying something else to unwind. Even inmates at a Maryland men’s prison have found an alternative to take their minds off their worries.  If you can believe it: they are KNITTING! Good Magazine’s reporter Jillian Anthony profiles Lyn Zwerling, the mastermind responsible for “Knitting Behind Bars,” a program that brings volunteers into the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, MD.  Zwerling says knitting is “more than a craft.” In fact, “It has the ability to transform you.”  The prison’s assistant warden says, “It’s very positive because you can see … the dynamics of their conversation [are] very calm, very soothing.”  So the next time you need some R&R, consider handwork like knitting! It’s therapeutic, affordable, practical, and fun. What could be better? And you may even end up with something beautiful that you can use or give as a gift.  Read more about the Knitting Behind Bars project in "How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts."

If you feel good, you... well, feel good!

It’s no secret that our day-to-day lives can take a toll. Nothing’s worse than getting stuck in a funk, and it’s not always easy to pull yourself out. Even worse, these funks can set in at any time, even in the middle of a busy day. As a full time college student with a part-time job—I know what it’s like! BUT FRET NOT. With this short list from Psychology Today, you can find some easy ways to feel great, most of which you can do anywhere, any time.  If these moods are not helped by these self-help techniques, there are many competent therapists around to offer support and guidance. Life is too short to stay too long in a funk, and you’re worth it.

Find resources for stress and emotional health here.

Regardless if it’s half full or half empty, after a while it gets heavy to hold

A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience.  She raised a glass of water, and everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, “half empty or half full?” ….She fooled them all… ”How heavy is this glass of water?”, she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter.  It depends on how long I hold it.  If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem.  If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm.  If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance.  In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”  She continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress.  If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.”

“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.  When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden-holding stress longer and better each time we practice.  So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down.  Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night…pick them up tomorrow.

“Whatever burdens you’re carrying now, let them down for a moment.  Relax, pick them up later after you’ve rested.  Life is short.  Enjoy it and the now ‘supposed’ stress that you’ve conquered.”

Study, Don't Cram!

If you’re one of the millions of students who has trouble studying come finals season, don’t fret.  Every year during finals and midterm season Twitter and Facebook are bombarded with comments like “Drinking coffee to help me stay up and study all night for my 8 a.m. Midterm...I’m screwed.”  It doesn’t have to be like that.  Other students have turned to dangerous prescription drugs such as Adderal and Vyvanse which are used to deal with symptoms of ADD.  It doesn’t have to be like this either. While schools pile the students with mounds and mounds of information, most students are never taught one of the most essential skills of learning: how to study. Help is here so you can pass this finals season without the use of drugs, sleepless nights and excessive coffee. Here is a list of effective and healthy ways to study. 1.            Study in Chunks: Don’t try to study everything at once. Break up the test into sections and chapters and study 30-50 minutes at a time. For best results try to break up the whole test into a week’s worth of studying.

2.            Switch study locations: A change in study locations has been proven to improve retention of information. If you cannot switch locations at least move around the room.

3.            Form study groups:  Study groups are extremely helpful. When you may not be in the mood to study, one of your peers will be there to motivate you. Additionally, when studying in groups, each member usually has his/her own devices to help memorize material, and sharing those can be extremely helpful. Warning: groups are for studying; do not allow the groups to distract you.

4.            Exercise:  Exercise and cardio exercises in particular have been proven to help memory. In addition a little exercise will help take your mind off your work for a little while and help with attention deficit disorders.

5.            Make your study information interesting: One way to help retain knowledge is to create mnemonic devices that relate to something you are interested in, whether it be sports, music or movies. Give the characters names or create a song out of your study information.

6.            Make a schedule: Make a schedule beforehand for all your studying. It is important to adhere to your schedule.  This will allow you to study a few chapters each day of each topic and will help you avoid cramming.

Using any combination of these methods can be very helpful. There are plenty of other methods that may work as well, but cramming the night before should never be one of them. Study hard, stay focused and Good Luck on your finals!

Check out our blog piece, "Not Your Study Buddy."

Information drawn from a Huffington Post study.

On Being a Twenty First Century Young Adult

I’m a textbook example of a twenty first century young adult.   I live my life on-the-go, juggling a hectic forty hour work week, family responsibilities, an education and, on the weekends, a social life. It’s no wonder I’m constantly stressed! Sometimes, I actually find stress to be somewhat of a beneficial force that fuels me through all-nighters and public speaking engagements.  But, more often than not, stress feels toxic - literally. The morning after a particularly stressful day, I almost always feel a bit ill.  Often, it takes me a couple of days to go back to feeling like my normal, active and engaged self.

Why is it that, as we have gotten older, we start getting sick after the last final or that major presentation? Well, science can provide an answer. When we feel stressed, we go into “fight or flight” mode and our pituitary gland sends signals throughout the body to increase the amount of hormones released in our bloodstream.  In response to the brain’s signal, our adrenal gland releases cortisol and adrenaline to increase strength and agility while also speeding up our reaction time.

In short term situations, this can push us to work harder or avoid dangerous situations. But, on the flip side, when the body releases more hormone than usual, our whole equilibrium is thrown off. If this process continues at a constant level due to continual and repetitive stress, our body never fully recovers and rests. Some of the short term side effects of constant stress include decreased stomach acids (which slows the metabolism and makes us more prone to illness), increased blood pressure, upset stomach, and chest pain.  In the long term, stress is a major contributing factor to obesity, cancer, depression, heart disease, lung ailments, cirrhosis of the liver and autoimmune diseases.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to manage stress effectively. It’s what we have heard – oh, so many times before: eating a healthy diet, sleeping eight hours a night, meditating, and exercise.  Half an hour of yoga or stretching in the mornings drastically increases the quality of our day and helps us get through some of the most anxiety-provoking situations.

What steps do you take to manage stress? Sound off in the comments section below!

Not your study buddy

College was challenging, to say the least. My friends and I struggled to juggle our classes alongside work and extracurricular activities responsibilities. We became desperate to make the best use out of every second in the day. While I resorted to sipping coffee to get through my evenings, some of my friends were drawn to the underground illicit trade of prescription pills.  To be frank, this wasn’t exactly an underground phenomenon at my college. Adderall and Ritalin were purchased in the hallways of our dorms!

At first, non-prescription drug usage was so common that few entertained the notion that it could be potentially dangerous. In my psychopharmacology classes, though, I learned about some of the many ways in which stimulants affect the body. Adderall and Ritalin, when used incorrectly and by those who don’t medically need them, have been shown in some cases to cause increased blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, seizures, hair loss, and even sudden death!

After a few months of taking these pills, addiction is almost inevitable: the brain re-structures itself and becomes increasingly tolerant to that drug’s effects. As a result, that person has to consume a higher dosage to feel similar effects and then crashes when he doesn’t get it, leaving the person dragged out for days on end.

Addiction to amphetamines completely changed my friends who got into using them. They were miserable most of the time and very irritable. They would do pretty much anything to get these pills. Some attempted to fake symptoms of ADHD so that doctors would write them their own prescriptions. Others began selling them and other drugs so that they could afford their own habits.

The irony was that addiction made these friends struggle even more in school. They were no longer able to sleep at night and, as a result, could not concentrate on their assignments. Their health began to deteriorate and they began missing classes.  Some even had to take leaves of absence or drop their classes so that they could enter recovery programs to address their addictions.

Watching friends struggle with addictions has reinforced our belief that illicit drug use is not the way to go. Our advice to college freshmen; avoid these illicit stimulants. It’s better to fight your way through exhaustion than wind up with a serious health problem! - R.L.

Read more about prescription drugs or stimulants. To find help for yourself or a friend, check out these resources.