The last weeks of an academic semester can be extremely stressful. We worry about deadlines for projects, about studying for final exams, about changes in our social life and about the expectations of parents and friends. From personal experience I know that these worries can lead to a cycle of sleeplessness, anxiety, self-doubt and a long list of equally negative emotions.
I can’t take your exams, I can’t write your papers, I can’t finish your projects, but I can give you one tip to help you get from today to the end of your semester. Bundle up, find a friend and take a walk. Walk fast or slow. Walk up and down the stairs of a tall building. If you have some good running shoes, make it a run. Or, if you want to exercise inside, play pickup basketball or volleyball. Go for a swim. Or even go skating at one of the local ice rinks. It doesn’t matter how you move, it only matters that you do move, and that you try to move without stopping for at least 45 minutes. You’ll find, as I do, that after about 10 minutes of moving you won’t be worrying about your paper, project or test; instead, you will be feeling your breathing get heavier, your back start to sweat, your legs start to hurt. It’s not really pain, just recognition that your body is now in charge of your brain, and the test, paper or project is not as important. And when you finish, you’ll find that you’ll be able to concentrate better and sleep longer and sounder at night.
When classes began in September, I invited students to run with me in the morning. So far, I’ve had about 40 of you join me. Not all at once, although I did have about 15 on one day. I’m still running every weekday morning, and you’re welcome to join me. I stop outside Mountainview Dining Hall (Appalachian) at 7 a.m. to meet those who want to join in. When we finish (after climbing the path to Hillside), we feel tired but refreshed, and know that we’ve accomplished one important task of our day.
Whether you join me or not, please, please, take 45 minutes every day to exercise. I strongly believe that sustained physical movement helps relieve stress, reduce worries and build self-confidence. You will look forward to it. In fact, the biggest worry you’ll have once you get started is finding 45 minutes to work out each day. But once you find them, you’ll never want to lose them. I know how important those 45 minutes are to me each day.
Good luck on the end of your semester. I wish you the best.
— Harvey Stenger is the president of Binghamton University.