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Lean In but Don’t Fall Out!

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March 15, 2013

I was reading an article by Courtney E. Martin on Women’s Media Center, and the theme of the article stuck with me. The title proudly proclaimed, “Leaning in Can get you Laidout,” and described how women lean so far in, and ignore their own health, they don’t recognize the cues that the body gives to warn people to de-stress and slow down. The idea of “leaning in” was originally written about by Sheryl Sandebrg COO of Facebook. This seemed like such a remarkable idea because it was so uncommon to hear this type of advice. The advice that permeates in my world with graduation nearing is that we must stand out, be different, and make ourselves well- rounded and our resumes diverse so that we as young people may transition from college to the real world successfully. I know many think that relaxation comes when the career in the field you want comes, but with Americans already receiving and using less and less vacation time it becomes highly unlikely that relaxation will ever come.

Since I’ve been in college I’ve seen so many friends and even strangers stretch themselves too thin, and even make themselves sick by pushing their bodies too hard. Here’s a preview of a peer reviewed journal discussing the prevalence of psychiatric illness in college students. I myself have been guilty of this, and speaking from first-hand experience my thought process was, If I just suck it up and push through I can accomplish everything I need to be successful, and I’m young so my body is suppose to be able to take the stress and bounce back, right? Wrong, and what happens when it doesn’t? What happens when you push your body too far out of the wellness state it’s meant to stay in?

For the lives of students like myself school and stress come hand in hand. I know many people that not only go to school, but work multiple jobs, and are actively engaged in organizations on campus. Going to school in general is more expensive than before and more students need financial aid, and income from a job to support them. Many articles have described this phenomenon.  Stress and the Lean In idea definitely aren’t just related to college students but college graduates and those entering the workforce for the first time as well. I believe that it is so important to really engage in a dialogue about this topic because this cycle of stress can cause many young people, mostly women, to suffer from serious illnesses like auto-immune diseases at younger and younger ages.

This phenomenon of disease is usually related to the high levels of stress people undergo on a continual basis for extended periods of time. These factors weigh on the already under stress human body, and almost certainly ensure disease or an ailment in its wake. I feel that if we start recognizing and taking a real long look at the truth, many can take this Lean In idea and the fundamentals behind it, and start incorporating more healthy coping mechanisms and a better diet at an earlier age. I also believe that engaging in stress relief activities like a sport, reading, or doing something you enjoy goes a long way to help combat stress. I want to definitely emphasize the importance of sleep, but I being a serious multi-tasker and workaholic know that sometimes sleep must be sacrificed in the name of getting things done.  We as young people should be getting between 6-9 hours of sleep per night that’s 42-63 hours of sleep per week, can anyone in college honestly say their getting anywhere near that?

I challenge everyone that reads this to seriously start gauging your stress level, your work level (school, job, and otherwise), and the amount of sleep you actually get a week. Let’s start a discussion and maybe help each other find ways to cope because there really is so reason for young people to be suffering from illnesses that would have only affected their grandmothers and grandfathers just a generation before.

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