By Alicia Rosas – Master Tutor
College – heck, life – can be a whirlwind of an experience. Often after graduating high school, a young adult leaves their hometown, their friends, family, and familiar faces and places, to arrive at a foreign land to pursue their aspirations of higher education, a career, technical school, starting a family… The list goes on.
One thing that these developmental transitions, like moving from adolescence to adulthood, always have in common are stressors, which come in many forms. And often, young people take on a lot of these stressors and dwell on them all day, every day, for weeks, months, years… the result of this compounded stress can become a crisis in someone’s life.
I recently read an article about a psychology professor who was discussing anxiety and how detrimental it can be on someone’s long-term health if they don’t manage it. She held a cup, half-full of water, and she paced across the front of the lecture hall while she discussed the topic. At the end of the lecture, much to the students’ surprise, she didn’t ask them the stereotypical question of, “Is the cup half-empty or half-full?” She instead asked them, “How much do you think this cup of water weighs?” She received many answers to her question, but shook her head and said, “It doesn’t matter how much the cup weighs. It matters only how long I hold onto it.”
This professor then discussed that if she held the cup for a short period of time, like the hour-long lecture, it wouldn’t feel so heavy, and the weight of the cup wouldn’t cause her any long-term harm. However, if she continued to hold it up as she walked back to her office and continued work for the rest of the day, it would get in the way and interfere with what she was trying to accomplish. The muscles in her arm would start to cramp, and she would be affected negatively by this weight. If she continued to hold onto the cup for the rest of her evening, into the next day, her arm would feel paralyzed, not having moved from supporting the weight of the cup. Imagine if she’d held onto it for day after day, week after week, for months… She would suffer tremendously even though the cup doesn’t weigh very much at all.
It’s the same with stress. Initially, it doesn’t weigh very much. Stress can even be a good thing sometimes– temporarily. However, the longer you dwell on the stressors, the harder it becomes to hold them up, and the more overwhelming it becomes. Soon enough, you’re not only mentally and emotionally exhausted, but stress causes negative physical impacts as well.
It’s important to learn to set your cup down, and let go of the stressors that are out of your control, so you can have a full attention for the things that are building you up, not holding you down. I think, in today’s society, everything is so fast-paced that it’s expected everyone is stressed out all the time, which isn’t healthy. Know yourself. Know where your healthy stress crosses that threshold into unhealthy, unmanageable stress and know when to set your cup down.
“It’s important to learn to set your cup down” -Alicia Rosas