Sinking in a Sea of Worry

School and interaction are parts of life. They are necessary if you want to grow up basically as close to normal as possible. Maybe you work and become easily worried about projects or longer shifts, etc. What do these things have in common? Could you be stressed with school and the work that accompanies it? Definitely. What about social interaction or any other interaction? Sure. Work? Oh, yes.

How do you deal with the stressors in your life? Well, that’s what I want to figure out.I want to know how to deal with them the “right way.” Everyone stresses at one point or another over certain obstacles. So, what’s the secret? I’m sure more than half of us would love to find out.

I have taken an anatomy class where the teacher described the parts of the brain and the emotions released by those certain areas. I attended yoga classes where the instructor taught breathing techniques, as well as being aware of tensions and how to release them through physical movements. I have also taken a psychology class were the professor explained the reasons for particular stressors. These classes sparked my interest in discovering why people stress, what happens to their body’s chemistry, and especially how to curb stress.

I have certainly learned to focus my attention toward tasks that actually matter instead of stressing over little tasks such as, a list full of items to do, having a day packed with work that is due, or driving siblings around. A calmer friend of mine taught me how to allow things to just happen. This friend does not stress nearly as much as I do, (maybe not even at all but only for a few things). When he saw how worked up I became over my “to-do” list or driving people around, he told me to stop, calm down, and just get it done. Just do the work and just drive them to the place they need to be. He said to check off my list as I accomplished the items. Once I saw how ridiculous I was being, I began to approach my tasks differently. I learned to get my things done and check them off as I go. Yes, I will stress over tests or presentations or something of the sort, but now I let things roll off my shoulders if they don’t deserve my full attention. My friend still has to remind me to stop, breathe, and just get my stuff done, but I have gotten much better at handling my stress.

While researching and digging deeper into various studies, stories, and articles about how to deal with stress, I found Melissa Masikiewicz’s article about various solutions to handling stress. She explains that recognition of personal strengths and weaknesses and altering some habits can aid in the management of stress. Purvis Lashieka Hunter uncovers the life of three women who were faced with major stressors in their lives and the women revealed how they dealt with them. Christine Gorman writes in Time Magazine  a list of things to do to help decrease the stressors in life. Her piece also includes a study done at the University of California, San Francisco on infants with stressed mothers. After my research, I added a few more tips to my list of how to handle stress. I hope you can do the same.

Annotated Bibliography

Masikiewicz, Melissa. “How to Handle Stress.” Career World 27.3 (1998): 22. Academic Search              Premier. Web. 11 Apr. 2016

Melissa Masikiewicz writes “How to Handle Stress” because she recognizes the amount of stress put into everyday tasks; therefore, she names different solutions to manage stress. The signs of stress are as such, but not limited to, lack of concentration, anxiety, headaches, trouble sleeping, etc. Just like the pain tolerances, everyone has a different “stress tolerance.” Masikiewicz says that the first step in taking action toward decreasing stress is knowing the cause of it. Once you know the cause, you are better prepared to deal with it.

Masikiewicz uses Vera Peiffer’s book Stress Management to further explain the “hiccups” of life. People tend to be more stressed if their personality falls in line with anxious, perfectionists, ambitious, etc. because they are motivated by “what ifs.” Managing your lifestyle plays a large role in guarding yourself against stress. Getting enough exercise, a healthy balanced diet, and getting enough sleep are basic steps toward decreasing stress. Learning to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and how to use them to your advantage is beneficial. Some tips included in the article are: clearing your work area, breaking bigger tasks into smaller ones, visualizing yourself achieving something because it builds confidence, and so on.

Hunter, Lashieka Purvis. “How I Got It Together After Everything Fell Apart.” Essence 45.4 (2014): 114-116. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Apr. 2016

Hunter’s article uncovers the life of three women who found themselves in life-altering situations but overcame the obstacles. Ricki Fairley was a fifty-five year old mother and wife. She was diagnosed with a serious form of breast cancer. Her nurse suggested that she learn to manage her stress levels. Fairley thought she was only busy, not stressed, then the stressors in her life became noticeable: her dysfunctional marriage and rough relationship with her work partner. Soon she took initiative by filing for divorce and moved to open her own company. She began to put herself first and stated, “God is in control,” (Fairley).

The other two women mentioned faced similar stressors of unhealthy relationships or loss of loved ones. S. Michele Dorsey relied on her faith in Christ. Her mother always told her “it’s okay to be down but it’s not okay to stay down,” (Dorsey’s mother). Taryn King discovered the power of overcoming stress and obstacles in her life. She relied on timing. She states “timing is everything. Sometimes it’s not right at that moment. But later on, it’s perfect,” (King).

Gorman, Christine. “6 Lessons for Handling STRESS. (Cover Story).” Time 169.5 (2007): 80-85. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Apr. 2016

Gorman’s list of lessons for handling stress begins with remembering to breathe. Slow breathing forces the heart rate to slow on exhale and increase a bit on inhale. Gorman’s main complaint in this portion of her writing is that people nowadays live a life “on-call” for the world. Further into the cover story, she unveils the chemistry in the blood and brain patterns as stress/cortisol levels increase. The brain actually has an “off switch” for stress responses. The adrenal glands and hypothalamus work closely together to balance cortisol levels.

In the article, she provides a study that stress actually ages people before the years physically age them. The University of California, San Francisco compiled a study that showed the telomeres, (protective covering of the chromosomes), of children with chronic disorders were much shorter in length because the children’s mothers were more stressed than those who had mothers with lower stress levels. The article ends with tips on how to relax- deep breathing, getting enough sleep, doing what you love, taking a break, etc.


Paul Muldoon and his “Hedgehog”

Paul Muldoon, an author featured in the Lenoir-Rhyne Visiting Writers Series, creates a poem depicting a hedgehog and comparing the little creature to the “god under this crown of thorns,” (17-18). Whoa, back up. He compared Christ to a hedgehog? Yes, yes he did. Muldoon begins with a snail “sharing its secret with the hedgehog,” (4-5). The hedgehog in return, shares its secret with no one else. Muldoon writes that “we” (7) persuade the hedgehog to come out so “we will love you,” (8). The hedgehog refuses, keeping to itself. In the final stanza, Muldoon inquires, “we forget the god under this crown of thorns,” (17-18). He states that the god will never trust the world again.

The first time I read Muldoon’s poem, I felt extremely confused as to what the message was and why he chose the image of a hedgehog. I guess you just don’t hear much about hedgehogs so it takes the reader by surprise when the topic of Muldoon’s poem is this furry, little mammal. I reread his piece and it made a bit more sense. It seems to me as though Muldoon is comparing Christ to the hedgehog in the narrated poem when the mention of the crown of thorns appears. Questions that popped into my head while reading were- “Why a hedgehog? What did we do, in Muldoon’s opinion, that caused the god in his piece to never trust the world again?” I would like to know his motive for writing this poem and why he chose an animal character.

Poetry Foundation

Paul Muldoon’s Website

Works Cited

Muldoon, Paul. “Hedgehog.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2016

Got a “Shitty First Draft(s)?”

Anne Lamott, an author featured in the Lenoir-Rhyne Visiting Writers Series, creates a section of her book, “Bird by Bird,” dedicated to the struggle of reaching a well-equipped final draft. Throughout her piece “Shitty First Drafts,” Lamott discusses, through sarcastic remarks and attention-grabbing humor, the pains authors get from facing the task of writing the dreaded first draft. She states that “the first draft is the child’s first draft.” It is the place where the author is able to “let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it.” As a writer, you must let the writing go where it wants to go.  If it wants to be emotional or moody, let it.

As a student of writing, I found Lamott’s piece to be a wealth of help. Her “Shitty First Drafts” reiterates what other teachers of mine have repetitively demanded: word vomit, (meaning write anything that comes to mind. Get all of your thoughts down on paper), for 5 or 10 minutes then take a break. Go back and sift through the word vomit and pick out what is important or crucial for your main point.

Lamott also uses a phrase that stuck out to me as I read her work: “bird by bird.” Well, what does that mean? As my ENG 131 professor informed the class, it made much more sense. Lamott’s father coined this phrase as her brother procrastinated a bird project in school. The night before the project was due, her father said that they would take it one step at a time, “bird by bird.” This idea is useful for not only the bird project but for any sort of writing as well as most aspects in life, for that matter. So, got a shitty first draft? Good. Take it one step at a time, bird by bird. You’ll probably find something useful in those pages of pages.


Work Cited:

Lamott, Anne. “Shitty First Drafts.” College of Arts & Sciences Writing, Rhetoric & Digital Studies. U of Kentucky, n.d. PDF. 11 April 2016

Link to “Shitty First Drafts”

Studying “April” by Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor, one of the authors featured in the Lenoir-Rhyne Visiting Writers Series, writes in “April” about the shifts from “March and Lent” (line 1) to the signs of spring blooming into view. He unveils the vivacity of life when spring awakens the dull world, as vegetables and other gardened crops are in season.

Keillor begins and ends “April” with mention of a religious season that allows the reader to assume he is involved with Christianity. That season is Lent. It is made clear when he uses the pronoun “we” (line 1) instead of “they” and the Lord by his name, “Lord, whose Arm is powerful,” (line 16). How involved is Keillor with religion? Is he actually involved with religion or enforcing a satirical tone? As the reader, this is not clear because he then begins to pepper in the signs of spring arising from its hibernation during winter.

The adjectives used throughout Keillor’s work give it the tone of excitement and joy because spring is underway! Is it true happiness or sarcasm? As a reader myself, I believe Keillor wished for us to feel blissful and recall the feeling we get when we imagine spring. His diction of “stunning onions, phenomenal fennel…and O the tomatoes! The bearer of pure joy!” (lines 7-9) give us the warmth and light-hearted mood that the life in Keillor’s work brings to light. So why does he choose these adjectives? What is he trying to get across? It is possible he would like his reader to feel the emotions listed in the previous sentences but it might not be the case, in the author’s opinion.

In lines 11-12, Keillor names the tomato carnivores: “The Crimson Defender, and Pink Delight, and Big Boy, And the Beef Eater.” What are the pseudonyms representing? They could be possible aliases for people who consume the tomatoes, or the animals who tamper with the plant as it grows. Many interpretations of Keillor’s writing are possible. Some not mentioned could be the reason for using certain adjectives or bringing religion into the mix of spring. Could Keillor be trying to relate spring and religion? Is there a sarcastic, almost satirical, tone in his work of “April?” These are questions that Keillor’s work raised in my mind as I read, reread, and studied his words.


Keillor Garrison. “April.” Garrison Keillor Website. Writing, 3 June 2014. Web. 3 April 2016

What would you do if…?

In Anna Altman’s blog post “College Education Should Include Rooming with a Stranger,” she reports on the constant discussion of how to assign roommates for upcoming freshman. Officials of universities and colleges bounce around many notions as they strive to uncover the mystery of how to perfectly assign roomies. “Perfect” is somewhat far-fetched, although a happy medium can be found. Institutions are reducing their headaches by using sociology and, even better, applications on social media, such as Roomsync, to partner roommates. So, rewind back to the time of senior year. You’ve committed to the college of your choice and now is the time to select a roommate. What do you do? Find someone who has mutual interests, or room with a total stranger?

Whomever the roommate, he or she will have an effect on your college experience, (if you haven’t found that out already). Altman’s blog provides examples of roommates’ daily lives being influenced by the type of person they live with. If Joe studies every so often and drinks heavily, Joe’s roommate will most likely find himself studying every so often and drinking heavily, as well. On the flip side, if Suzie exercises every day for at least half an hour, her roommate will be inclined to exercise also. Developing certain habits begins at college life and according to the blog, some habits are not as influential as others. It may seem clear that “anxious roommates make us more anxious, but unfortunately happy roommates don’t make us happier, while depression was more easily transmitted among men than among women.” Even picking up on each other’s language is demonstrated as roommates spend more time together. Interesting, right?

Picking a random roommate is somewhat nerve-racking for seniors who are about to embark on the journey of college life. They are back to the lowest status on the totem pole; they are in a new environment, and have the pressure of being accepted. Roommates will help in the process. Homesickness is common among many college students. If every freshmen is a stranger to one another and are striving for the same goals, (being accepted, finding friends, etc.), it makes it that much easier to feel more comfortable.

I am a senior in high school and will be faced with the conundrum of choosing a roommate. I have decided to take Anna Altman’s blog and apply it to the life of a senior at the end of the last semester. Place yourself in the shoes of this senior. What do you do? Do you take the risk of random assignment or do you find someone compatible to your lifestyle? As I am about to be a senior who makes this decision, I would go with the random assignment. If the college of my choice used one of the methods of assigning roomies, (RoomZoom or Roomidex, for example), I would say, “Yes, I would like to be randomly assigned.” My reason for this decision is because it allows me to familiarize myself with new people in the community. It also gives me an outlet for finding new friends, involvement with various clubs and organizations, and aids in decreasing homesickness.

Other seniors have answered with varying statements. I confronted seniors in my class, asking them the same questions as I have stated in the previous paragraphs. One said he “would rather have a friend as a roommate but wouldn’t mind a stranger.” Another chose “a stranger because college is about learning how to deal with new people. In life, one has to deal with plenty of new faces.” Students will have different opinions about this topic, which I fully understand, yet colleges are finding that random assignments are proving to be beneficial. They have the ability to share interests, experiences, beliefs, and it “can expand horizons and open eyes in extremely important ways,” says Bruce Sacerdotal, a Dartmouth economics professor. One must learn to adapt to working with others on many things in life, especially in the workforce. Rooming with a stranger allows college students to develop the habit of working through problems, discussing hot topics and each other’s beliefs while in a setting where new adventures await every day.

Anna Altman’s blog struck home with me when I read and reread it. Before reading the NY Times blog, I would have chosen to room with a friend or at least a familiar face, in a heartbeat. Now, I see the benefits I would receive from choosing a stranger. Is rooming with a stranger effective? From reading this one blog, it seems so, but it is only one blog with multiple perspectives within it. I believe college is about pushing students outside their comfort zones and introducing them to new ideas, topics, challenges, and reality, to be frank. I understand that some negative habits from other people may attempt to weave its way into my lifestyle, but it is my responsibility to be aware of the temptations. Ten years from now, when I look back on my college experience, I want to be able to say that I challenged myself to overcome obstacles and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. The first step to being that goal, as a senior, is to choose a stranger as a roommate. If you are a senior or are reflecting back to that stressful time, what will you do or what did you do?


Anna Altman’s Blog Post



“Declining by Degrees”

In the documentary Declining by Degrees published by PBS in 2005, hot topics about college life and how students are “treading water” while attempting to complete an undergraduate degree are contemplated. The film displays interviews of various students at four separate types of college institutions, (Western Kentucky University, Amherst College, Community College of Denver, and University of Arizona). It depicts each students’ life as they party, attempt to pass classes, work a full time job, and figure out the path he or she intends to follow.

The documentary suggests that the time when people were able to succeed right out of high school is over. Young adults need to have a college education in order to succeed in the workforce. Another issue brought about is that parents send their children to school and, most of the time, have no idea what goes on at most colleges or universities. Along with parents being partially clueless to what happens inside the classroom, those kids inside the classroom have no motivational drive. They pass with As and Bs without studying, which is detrimental to students in the long-run because only 1 in 4 undergraduates make it to sophomore year, (at the time this documentary was filmed). The work load begins to pile up and the students feel lost in a large environment. They begin to develop the habit of “treading water,” which is learning to manipulate the system by barely passing, but it is just enough to get them to the next stage. Even though they pass, the students struggle. They are not performing to the best of their abilities. Most students have greater potential than “treading water.”

Finally, while the documentary is dated 10 years, some of the content still applies to those preparing for school today. Young adults can learn a thing or two from the lives portrayed in the film. Who knows, it may speak to one or two individuals who are struggling. Learning how to “swim,” rather than “sink” or “tread water,” takes dedication and hard work. In the end, it will show positive results.


Declining by Degrees. Dir. Robert Frye. PBS, 2005. Documentary

Documentary Link

Critique on “Snow Day”

In Billy Collins’ poem “Snow Day,” the narrator describes an ideal day being stuck in the snow. Collins paints a vivid picture of the setting so the reader may grasp an image of the atmosphere surrounding the narrator. The speaker begins to share a more sarcastic tone when commenting about the news on the radio, “that the Kiddie Corner School is closed…clap your hands…” (lines 21-30). In the first line of the first stanza, Collins chooses to use the word “we.” Throughout the rest of the poem, “I” replaces the “we” pronoun, previously used. The author may choose to use this as an indication of the whole town “we” or the narrator and a significant other “we.” The effect created by choosing to begin the poem in first person plural then magnifying it to solely first person parallels to the broader imagery of the whole environment then focusing to the narrator’s life on a snow day.