PLN…Take Two!

Last semester in my intro to IDS class, we talked about what a PLN is. A PLN is a personal learning network and my current PLN is my newly created twitter account. Before IDS, I did not have a twitter and did not bother thinking it was going to be drama filled like a lot of social media sites. What I realized what that my Twitter account gave me a lot of outside resources and helped me with ideas for my applied project and research article. Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 6.42.23 PM

Bonnie Toomey has really boosted my confidence with her consistent retweets and positive & constructive criticism on my blog posts. She has been a great professor for IDS senior seminar and has become a huge role in my PLN.

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On April 3rd I decided to do research article on how being outside can help in reducing stress. It ended up being a great research assignment in which I learned a lot and hope to teach my viewers a little something as well!

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This was my tweet about viewing my applied project post and how college students are quite possibly the most stressed generation there is. Check it out if you want to read more.

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Beyond grateful to be introduced into this program. IDS saved me and I am truly happy with how the remainder of my college experience has gone.

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A friendly reminder to myself…be human. Interdisciplinary studies is about being human. Life is created interdisciplinary and we shouldn’t have to focus on one topic for 4 years of schooling. Knowledge comes from multiple disciplines and this major helped me realize that I needed to be more human.

Summary Synthesis: At the Finish Line

I came to Plymouth State University in fall of 2014 with the hopes of becoming a Registered Nurse in the ICU. After 3.5 years of doing something I thought I loved, my heart steered away from what I thought I wanted to do for a career. Right before my Nursing.pngsenior year, I switched majors and decided to come to Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Health Science. I have not looked back since, and am grateful that I can graduate on time doing something I want to do.

Health Science is very broad and can include a multitude of things. I have taken a handful of health related classes including psychological health, nutritional courses, and nursing classes of course. Something that has resonated with me throughout my college career is the amount of stress students are put under during the academic year. For my applied project, I wanted to see what other students in college/university thought about stress during their time in school. Mental health is something so important and valuable for people at the college age. Good mental health leads to physical and sociological health and has so many benefits for the human body overall. During my study, I found that college students are more stressed out than you think, and cope in ways that are extremely healthy.

Because the topic of stress is something I am interested in, I wanted to do some research about stress as well. Instead of focussing on stress in general, I wanted to focus on a coping mechanism for stress. Personally, being outside helps me cope with the stress I have almost daily. For my research article, I researched if outdoor activity reduced stress. I was curious to find if there was scientific evidence to back this theory up, and also asked around to see what others thought. I was pleased with my results of the research and thought to information was not only useful to me, but useful to others.

Although I have only been apart of Interdisciplinary Studies for a year, I have learned more about myself and have gained more confidence in my practice. I am passionate about the health of the human body and feel that stress impacts our bodies in many ways. I know both my research article and applied project focussed on this topic and have enlightened the mind of myself and the minds of others. Instead of feeling ashamed of changing my major, I feel relieved and excited to see what the next chapter of my education will be. 12219633_10207141888202148_2836015615530991888_n

 

The Most Stressed Generation

Ryleigh Stearns

Interdisciplinary Studies Major

Applied Project

Dont’ get me wrong, I love being a college student. There are so many valuable experiences and relationships that are made. I would not change it for anything. College is very different for people. Some will say that college is not for them, and some will say college gave some of the best years of their life. But something that all college students have in common is the amount of stress they endure each year.21192268_10155857626539276_1048055867853500127_n.jpg

When I was in high school, almost all of my teachers were giving extra assignments to get to “ready for college”. In reality, those extra assignments did nothing in preparation for my college experience. As a senior, I can say that I have had some of the best and worst times during my 4 years at school. Stress does not only come from the amount of work you have, but it comes from many outside experiences as well. College is a big step. Young students are placed into an environment they are not used to, without the guidance of their parents or friends from home. They have to learn to cook for themselves, eat healthy, make new friends, manage their time affectively, clean up after themselves, and ultimately, make the right choices. Students are faced with tremendous amounts of peer pressure, especially in their first year. Many will conform to peer pressure in the hopes of fitting in with their friend groups.

All of these things I mentioned previously, have much to do with the high amount of stress students are currently having. Around the end of the semester, during finals, students are spending countless hours at home or the library doing work to attempt to meet deadlines their professors have set. I thought that this would be the perfect time to ask the students themselves all about their stress in college and university. I created a survey for any person attending college weather it be for associates, bachelors or masters. I wanted to explore stress levels and coping mechanisms of students of all years and get a better idea of what college students are actually experiencing.

The survey consisted of these 8 questions:

  1. What is your current year attending university/college?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, with one being not stressed at all and 10 being the most stressed you’ve ever been, how stressed do you feel daily during the school year?

  3. What causes stress in your life? Select all that apply.
  4. How do you deal with stress? Select all that apply.
  5. Do you agree that stress has had a negative impact on your physical and/or mental health?
  6. Do you often feel like you have to choose between having a social life and school work?
  7. Do you believe there are enough resources on campus to help you when you are stressed?
  8. Do you believe you would benefit greatly if your school offered more resources for stressed students?

 

Overall, the survey is not long in length. But what college student has time to take a fifteen minute survey? I know I wouldn’t. I want to start by analyzing the 2nd question. Overall, 57 college/university students took the time to take my survey. When asked how stressed they were on a daily basis on a scale of 1-10, a majority of the students put an 8. This was shocking to me. The second highest answer was a seven so not much different there. I also wanted to point out that not one person rated their daily stress level at a 1 or a 2. And yes, there were two people that said 10, being the most stressed they have ever been, was their daily stress level while attending school.

Something that I was not shocked to see were the results for question number 3. What causes stress in your life? Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 2.25.54 PM

Money, school and homework. I think many students can agree that those three things are the source of most of our stress. 54/57 people answered school as a cause of stress in their life. 52/57 people said homework was another cause of the stress in their life. The two just go hand and hand.

I then began to ask students how they deal with their high levels of stress. I made a list of good and bad coping mechanisms such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sleeping, eating, talking to a friend, therapy, and so on. What I found was that sleep was the number one way people dealt with their stress. I found this interesting because this can be good or bad. A proper amount of sleep is necessary for a well rested mind and body. But sleeping when you have work to do for class can end up putting more stress on yourself in the long run since you continue to put the work off. 67% of people said that talking with a friend or family member helped them deal with stress. This is a great coping mechanism because talking about problems prevents you from keeping them to yourself and stressing yourself out more. Unfortunately, drinking and drug abuse were also quite popular on the list in the survey. In college, students are pressured into doing activities that they may not do outside of school. Alcohol and drugs can make you feel good for a short amount of time, but will negatively impact you in the long run.

Question number 5 was a brief question with a large impact. Do you agree that stress has had a negative impact on your physical and/or mental health? 95% of surveyors said yes.

A lot of times, I feel like I am drowning so much in school work that I don’t have time for myself or friends. Social interactions in school are important for your mental health. Having people to go to when you need them are essential in a school environment when you are away from home. That leads me to question number 6. Do you often feel like you have to choose between school work and having a social life? 75% said yes.

The last two questions I included in this survey are important to me. Do you believe there are enough resources on campus to help you when you are stressed? Do you believe you would benefit greatly if your school offered more resources for stressed students? For me personally, I do not know about the resources offered on campus. My sophomore year, free student therapy was offered where you can meet with a professional counselor about anything that was on your mind. Something else I discovered was that there used to be a room on campus with oversized bean bag chairs that was open to all students who needed a study break and could just lay down on the giant bean bag chairs. I’m sad they do not have that resource anymore. Other than that, I have no idea what else is offered on campus. So I wanted to ask my peers. Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 3.41.59 PM

Clearly there is a miscommunication here with the resources available. To me this shows that the school system has failed to show students what resources were available on campus for their high amounts of stress. If more students were more aware of the resources on campus to help them with stress, they may attend and seek help more often. It also could be that there just aren’t that many resources available for students.

Finally I asked students if they would benefit greatly if their school offered more resources for stressed students. These were their results:

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 3.41.39 PMThe most picked response was “a great deal”. I could agree with this. With the high amount of payment for college, students should always be taken care of. They pay more than enough each semester to do so. None of the surveyors said that more resources would not benefit the students of the school they attend.

Stress and school go hand and hand. Mental health is extremely important when you are a college student. This is most likely the first time on your own, so you are not used to living without your parents telling you what to do. You learn to make harder decisions for yourself and grow up. We are all human. Sometimes people need help dealing with daily problems in our life. I believe it is a responsibility of the school to have an adequate amount of resources for stressed students available every day of the week. Stress can do a lot to physically and mentally harm someone. So being able to prevent a higher amount of stress is better than dealing with the highest amount of stress you have ever had before.

College years are some of the best and worst of your life. I have learned so much from the responses of fellow students who feel the pressure of school each day. If I were to change something about my process, I would have opened the survey earlier in the year in order to get more responses. My goal was to obtain 100 responses, for that is a good sample size, and I only received 57 total. Although, I found each response to be extremely valuable and helpful for me in making and analyzing my applied project. I hope that all college students and universities can see how greatly students would be impacted if there were more resources offered for stressed out students. Nobody wants to see a student fail and offering more resources for stressed students is the first step to prevent failure.

If you are interested in reading more about stress and how outdoor activity can help reduce it, click here to read my recent research article!

Spending Time Outside Reduces Stress

Ryleigh Stearns

Interdisciplinary Studies Major

RA final draft

Stress is an emotion that people deal with in their lives every single day. No matter what we do, we cannot escape it. There are so many ways of dealing with stress, weather it is negative or positive. I have had the pleasure of being a hard working college student for four years now. Although many experiences I have had have been nothing but memorable, stress is something that controls my body a majority of the time attending university. In order to properly deal with my stress, I asked myself what I really enjoy doing on my days off. The answer was simple. Being outside whether it is walking, kayaking, hiking, or just lying out and soaking up the rays from the sun. By being outside, I do not feel stressed. Feeling the breeze and the warmth from the sun on my skin, the stress just seems to go away. So then I thought, does being outside actually aid in relieving stress?DCIM100GOPRO

To begin my research, I wanted to start at a young age. It is crucial to understand the importance of recess and outdoor play for children in primary school. I remember how exciting it was to be able to go outside and release my energy as a child. After sitting in a classroom for more than a few hours, the brain is unable to retain more information without a proper break.

“Research shows us that many of the fundamental tasks that children must achieve, such as exploring, risk taking, fine and gross motor development, and the absorption of vast amounts of basic knowledge, can be most effectively learned through outdoor play” (Edgar L., p.4).

Outdoor play for children, allows them to learn while doing. By being able to do things hands on, the mind can better retain the tasks at hand. During the first three years of life, there are more neural pathways in the brain. Physical activity also exercises the brain. When comparinfc929-246_1l40895_children_playingg physical activity to seat-work, seat-work actually lowers brain concentration and increases feelings of fatigue. I found this interesting because a majority of learning environments are inside sitting at a desk.

With that being said, many schools are beginning to take away recess and outdoor play in order for students to focus more on academics. This poses a huge problem because these children will not be able to exercise their bodies and minds five out of seven days of the week. Sitting and attempting to learn for eight hours straight will put children’s stress levels at an all-new high.

“Getting children outside more benefits the children not only physically, but also allows the brain to recharge which, should produce greater results academically, socially, and cognitively” (Edgar L., p. 6).

This also encourages children to live a sedentary lifestyle. With many advances in technology, children are becoming more tempted to stay inside where their electronics are. With this new age of technology, television, video games, social media and cell phones are taking over, while outdoor play is becoming a thing of the past.

Overall, outdoor play should be introduced at a very young age. At the ages of 3-9 months old, infants are beginning to listen and recognize noises outside. They also begin to experience weather, smells, colors and touch. They are able to distinguish what being outside smells and feels like. At the ages of 10-14 months old, outdoor play reduces stress, fear and anxiety within the children. They begin to make choices on their own as well as have an overwhelming feeling of joy. Being active outside also allows children of this age to work on their balance and flexibility, increase their physical health and endurance, and increase the strength of their immune system.

I found an interesting topic that I have never heard of before that related to my research. “Forest bathing” is an interesting take on de-stressing in the woods. Forest bathing is literally taking walks in the woods in order to help de-stress. This practice was first founded and studies in Japan where there have been groups of people that have volunteered to go for walks in the woods and record their vital signs and signs of stress IMG_6682before and after the activity. The author of the article A Walk in the Woods, by A. Phillips, wanted to experience this practice for himself. For each day of the month of April, Phillips went for a nature walk. He did this for more than an hour a day and would tend to visit areas of serenity such as a waterfall or river. He recorded his finding and reported feeling “better” after this forest bathing session. He also felt more relaxed, calm and had a clearer mind overall after the month of April.

Phillips really touched on the importance of being out in the woods and how it even helps the body heal.

“One of the first and most well-known studies, published in Science by Richard S Ulrich in 1984, found that patients recovering from surgery in rooms with a window facing a natural setting had shorter hospital stays and took less pain medication than did patients whose window faced a brick wall” (A. Phillips p. 301).

The research behind forest bathing showed us that the blood pressure of subjects who went for a walk within the forest were lower than previously recorded. It was also found that levels of DHEA-S were increased within the body. DHEA-S contributes to a healthy heart. There was also an increase in activity of the peripheral nervous system. The PNS is responsible for the “rest and digest” response in the body. The activity of the sympathetic nervous system was recorded to be generally lower in the subjects that participated in the forest bathing. The SNS is responsible for the “fight or flight” response within the body. The activity of the SNS is usually spiked when you are put into a stressful situation. Lower activity of the SNS also decreases the amount of the adrenal hormone, cortisol, to be produced. Cortisol is a hormone that is most often associated with stress, for it is released when the body is feeling stressed.

This study had all of the right data to help prove that activity outdoors aids in combating stress. Stress has a physical and emotional response and by recording vital signs and hormone levels and comparing their before and after, we can see that forest bathing, or going for a walk in the woods, can actually lower levels of stress. With the large amount of urbanization happening across the world, nature walks are becoming more rare and hard to obtain. That is one flaw that I noticed with forest bathing. Taking a walk in a forest like setting versus walking in an urban setting did not show the same results. People who walked in an urban setting did not show a large enough change in vital signs or cortisol levels. I believe it is important to take note on the fact that there is some very valuable research here. This study proves that there is evidence that being outdoors aids in reducing stress.

It amazes me that something as simple as nature can have such a large impact on your overall health. I came across this article online titled How the Simple Act of Nature Helps you De-stress. This article brought many things to my attention that I really did not think of before. Exercising outdoors allows you to disconnect from your mobile devices and focus more on yourself. Personally, I see people consumed by their cell phones each and everyday. Living a day or a few hours without your phone causes major anxiety in some people and has become a necessity in our lives. Social media like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and more have the ability to consume and take over lives. Social media harbors cyber bullying, self-esteem issues and lies.

Not only does activity outside keep you away from your phone, it keeps your from breathing in recycled air constantly. A lot of times you will hear more people saying that they typically get sick in the wintertime versus a time of nice weather. This has a lot to do with the lower amount of activity that takes place during the cold winter months. People are more apt to stay indoors when the weather is not ideal so this leads to breathing in more recycled air and germs that are within the home environment.

“Being outdoors in generally associated with activity, and being physically active keeps joints loose and helps with chronic pain and stiffness” (Jay Lee).

The most important information I will take away from this article is that nature helps reduce fatigue and stress and relieve depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety have become serious epidemics worldwide. Medication is offered for this but is usually seen as a last resort due to side effects. If there is such a way to prevent medication, like getting outdoors more, it is important to make more people aware.

Overall health of the human body is something I have always been interested about. Previously, I have done research about stress and the impact it can have on a person. Stress can come in all shapes and sizes and at any time of your life. It does not always come at convenient times. Often it seems to happen at the most inconvenient 2018-02-24 10:30:24.074time in your life. Because I feel so passionately about the topic of stress, I did my applied project on a related topic as well. For my applied project, I focused on the stress levels and coping mechanisms of students in university. I will link the post here. What I had found was that there was an overwhelming amount of students who felt stressed a majority of the days of the week and the stress was not minor, it was quite severe. The two most common causes of stress among the sample group were school and homework. I then looked at what coping mechanisms were popular amongst the group. I found that sleeping, eating and substance abuse were some of the most popular answers. I did not find this surprising because being a college student; I understand the stress that is bestowed upon us every day. Peer pressure encourages you to practice negative coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol and doing drugs. I would like to think that if more students spent their time outside on nice days and not in the classroom, the stress levels would decrease.Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 2.25.54 PM.png

The main reason I wanted to research about this topic is because of my deep love and history of nature. From a young age, my parents exposed my sister and I to nature in a variety of ways. From the time I was born, my parents took me on camping trips throughout the seasons of spring, summer and fall. We started out in tents, snuggling close for warmth during the colder nights. Camping has become a tradition in my family because of them. We camp as a family to get away from working, school, and negative energy from being in the same place too often. Camping allows us to spend time as a family, away from technology for weeks on end. I often found that my family would take more adventurous ideas together like hiking a hard trail or exploring a new part of a state together. We are outside 90% of the days that we are there and that has much to do with our low stress levels.12805794_10207917379148937_5704711410796441848_n

Because of my love for the great outdoors, I want to be outside more often each day even if it is only for ten minutes. Whether it is going for a short run, a long hike, sun bathing, or walking my dog, I cherish that time equally. I find that doing homework outside on a nice day helps me think more clearly and openly. There is nothing more relaxing than hearing the leaves rustle on the ground when a strong breeze rolls by or listening to the melody of chirping birds in the trees. Nature is all around you and is a natural coping mechanism for stress.

I thought it would be interesting to ask around and see what other people thought of this topic. Because I live with three other people, it would be easy to hear their opinions. I asked my first roommate if she thought spending time outside reduced her stress. Her immediate response was “YES!” Her stress level is typically high and any chance she gets; she tries to do things outside like attend baseball games. I asked my second roommate the same question and I already knew her answer. Anytime she is home, she is outside lying on the porch or sitting in her hammock getting her schoolwork done. She surrounds herself and her room with plants and even a sound machine to mimic the noises of being outside. She even works on a farm, picking produce and selling to people at a farm stand. She lives her life mainly outside and completely agrees that spending time with nature reduces stress. I asked my final roommate what he thought about this topic. He is one that loves to play video games in his free time but does not allow himself to get too caught up with technology. He always makes an attempt to get outdoors even if it is for a few minutes. He even just enjoys walking to class on a nice day and enjoying the view of campus. My roommates and I do not agree on everything, but we can all agree that being able to spend time outside reduces our stress levels.

The topic of being outdoors and reducing stress includes many different disciplines. In the beginning of my research paper, I discussed the importance of outdoor play for children. This ties into early education. Many other disciplines are discussed including nursing, forestry, human health, mental health, elementary education, physical education, and health medicine. It is important to monitor stress at all ages and introduce outdoor play to children right away. Based off of my research, personal and interpersonal experiences, I have come to the conclusion that being outdoors does in fact reduce stress. “Get outside. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there’s something good about feeling both” (Amy Grant).IMG_8798.JPG

 

Sources:

Martin, C. (2017). Children, mobile phones and outdoor play. Policy Press. doi:10.1332/policypress/9781447330035.003.0010

The science behind why nature makes you happier and healthier. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/how-nature-can-solve-life-s-most-challenging-problems-ncna749361

Annerstedt, M., Norman, J., Boman, M., Mattsson, L., Grahn, P., & Währborg, P. (2010). Finding stress relief in a forest. Ecological Bulletins, (53), 33-42. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.plymouth.edu/stable/41442017

McKenzie, T., & Kahan, D. (2008). Physical Activity, Public Health, and Elementary Schools. The Elementary School Journal, 108(3), 171-180. doi:10.1086/529100

Phillips, A. (2011). A Walk in the Woods: Evidence builds that time spent in the natural world benefits human health. American Scientist, 99(4), 301-302. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.plymouth.edu/stable/23019378

RA rough draft

Spending Time Outdoors Helps Combat Stress

Stress is an emotion that people deal with in their lives every single day. No matter what we do, we cannot escape it. There are so many ways of dealing with stress, weather it is negative or positive. I have had the pleasure of being a hard working college student for four years now. Although many experiences I have had have been nothing but memorable, stress is something that controls my body a majority of the time attending university. In order to properly deal with my stress, I asked myself what I really enjoy doing on my days off. The answer was simple. Being outside whether it is walking, kayaking, hiking, or just lying out and soaking up the rays from the sun. By being outside, I do not feel stressed. Feeling the breeze and the warmth from the sun on my skin, the stress just seems to go away. So then I thought, does being outside actually aid in relieving stress?

To begin my research, I wanted to start at a young age. It is crucial to understand the importance of recess and outdoor play for children in primary school. I remember how exciting it was to be able to go outside and release my energy as a child. After sitting in a classroom for more than a few hours, the brain is unable to retain more information without a proper break.

“Research shows us that many of the fundamental tasks that children must achieve, such as exploring, risk taking, fine and gross motor development, and the absorption of vast amounts of basic knowledge, can be most effectively learned through outdoor play” (Edgar L., p.4).

Outdoor play for children, allows them to learn while doing. By being able to do things hands on, the mind can better retain the tasks at hand. During the first three years of life, there are more neural pathways in the brain. Physical activity also exercises the brain. When comparing physical activity to seatwork, seatwork actually lowers brain concentration and increases feelings of fatigue. I found this interesting because a majority of learning environments are inside sitting at a desk.

With that being said, many schools are beginning to take away recess and outdoor play in order for students to focus more on academics. This poses a huge problem because these children will not be able to exercise their bodies and minds five out of seven days of the week. Sitting and attempting to learn for eight hours straight will put children’s stress levels at an all-new high.

“Getting children outside more benefits the children not only physically, but also allows the brain to recharge which, should produce greater results academically, socially, and cognitively” (Edgar L., p. 6).

This also encourages children to live a sedentary lifestyle. With many advances in technology, children are becoming more tempted to stay inside where their electronics are. With this new age of technology, television, video games, social media and cell phones are taking over, while outdoor play is becoming a thing of the past.