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dealing with STRESS

If College Life Has You Feeling Frantic, Count to 10, Take a Deep Breath and Have a Massage

By Geoffrey C. Upton

It's that time again.

Suddenly all the cubicles at Lamont and Cabot libraries are full again as midterms rapidly approach.

First-years--still tense from finding a formal date--are rushing off in every direction to blocking group conferences. (Blocking forms are due March 10.)

Sophomores and juniors are checking out rooms in preparation for housing lotteries.

The Office of Career Services is plastering the campus with posters offering last-minute summer job counseling, as students nervously await hearing from Let's Go.

Everywhere students are scrambling to make spring break plans.

And the weather's in flux: one day it's a crisp 30, the next a humid 65.

What's a stressed-out Harvard student to do?

There are classic remedies offered by Harvard's health experts, but also more off-beat options such as massage, which has become increasingly popular among both students and faculty on campus.

Mouth to Mouth

According to University Health Services (UHS), there are numerous signs that you are suffering from stress: eating and sleeping problems, upset stomach, increased smoking and use of alcohol or other drugs, poor concentration, hunched shoulders, clenched jaw and frequent colds or infections.

Students feeling stressed need to be particularly concerned about what they eat, says Chris Hollis, manager of the UHS office of health education.

UHS suggests the following eating tips to students cramming for a mid-term or up late finishing a paper:

* Eat high-fuel foods. Despite the common belief that foods containing grease, caffeine and sugar provide a lift, the price of "cranking up" the body in the short term is the risk of having the body "crash" an hour later. As a snacking alternative, eat fruit, bagels, crackers and popcorn, which give the body a more consistent injection of energy.

For students limited to the offerings of their local snack machine, Charlie Smigelski, a nutrition counselor at UHS, suggests pretzels or miniature rice cakes.

"They have some sugar to them," he says of the latter, "but they're not as intense as the Pepperidge Farm cookies."

* Minimize your caffeine intake. If you must have caffeine, try weak tea instead of coffee. Excess caffeine, along with grease and sugar, can impede oxygen flow through the capillaries and induce fatigue.

"Too much caffeine does pump your system up, but then you crash afterward," comments Smigelski, who is a registered dietician. "Ultimately you're going to have to repair a little when you're done, and your system may take a few days to recover."

* Schedule your snacks. Some students may tend to eat non-stop while writing a paper or cramming. Try limiting yourself to snacking at pre-set intervals, say, one snack every 40 minutes.

* Don't skip lunch. In addition to giving your body a stretch, breaking for lunch will take your mind off your work and improve your concentration in the long run. To this end, UHS recommends students eat with friends and other students.

"People are under the sense that 'If I just keep pushing, I'll get work done," Smigelski says. "It's kind of a mistaken notion."

Out and About

In addition to eating more carefully, UHS recommends exercising--or at least stretching--regularly during times of stress. Students should:

* Take a break from computer work every 30 minutes. Let your hands loosely hang by your sides, then stretch slowly and carefully for about two minutes to loosen neck and shoulder muscles.

* Take at least one brisk walk during the day, for 20 to 30 minutes. If you have a regular exercise regimen, try to keep it up through stressful periods.

* Other tips from UHS: try taking a warm shower (or bath) before going to sleep; try lying on the floor with your eyes closed, breathe deeply through your nose until your abdomen and chest fill with air and then let it out; go somewhere private and yell or stomp around to let off steam.

Students might also want to contact a counselor for more personal advice. The Bureau of Study Counsel offers academic and personal counseling, and counselors at the Office of Health Education on the second floor of UHS are available to dispense pamphlets and confidential advice.

The Great Harvard Backrub

Recently, a more exotic method of dealing with stress has gained prominence on campus: massage.

Thursday evening, the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) sponsored a stress-management workshop at its regular meeting. The pre- sentation featured a segment on massage techniques.

In Leverett House each Tuesday night, a group of students meets to rub and squeeze away their worries.

Even UHS has joined in the act. For the last two years, UHS has offered a massage program out of its Office of Health Education.

The program gives its clients two options: 45-minute massages at the Law School office of UHS or 10-minute "chair massages" at a site chosen by the client.

According to Keli Ballinger, who works in the health education office, demand for the massages has risen dramatically of late, prompting one therapist to take on an additional day of work.

"It has grown consistently over the past year," Ballinger says. "It's really, really expanded, and each week we're completely booked."

The program is geared toward faculty and staff, though Ballinger says she has seen students sign up.

Massages cost $45 for one hour, with members of the Harvard Group Health Plan (but not the student health plan) receiving a $5 discount.

Most massage customers--students and faculty members alike--tend to come on a regular basis, Ballinger says.

"We have people that schedule once a month," she says.

Because of the high demand for the hour-long sessions, however, UHS advises undergraduates to consider the chair massage option.

For $10, a student can have a massage therapist come to his or her room and give a ten-minute massage. At least six paying clients must be gathered at once for the chair massage, and appointments must be made at least five days in advance.

Ballinger says customers have been overwhelmingly pleased with the massages.

"The primary response is that it is very relaxing, and that even just the ten-minute appointment is worth a full day of relaxation," she says.

Smigelski, the dietician, says massage will be most helpful to students who are prone to muscle tension.

"People hold tension in their bodies, and different people have different stress organs--guts, muscles, headaches," he says. "For people who do feel a lot of muscle tension, massage is great."

Hollis, the manager of the health education office, adds that students should be sure they have time to adequately relax after any massage before investing time and money

In Leverett House each Tuesday night, a group of students meets to rub and squeeze away their worries.

Even UHS has joined in the act. For the last two years, UHS has offered a massage program out of its Office of Health Education.

The program gives its clients two options: 45-minute massages at the Law School office of UHS or 10-minute "chair massages" at a site chosen by the client.

According to Keli Ballinger, who works in the health education office, demand for the massages has risen dramatically of late, prompting one therapist to take on an additional day of work.

"It has grown consistently over the past year," Ballinger says. "It's really, really expanded, and each week we're completely booked."

The program is geared toward faculty and staff, though Ballinger says she has seen students sign up.

Massages cost $45 for one hour, with members of the Harvard Group Health Plan (but not the student health plan) receiving a $5 discount.

Most massage customers--students and faculty members alike--tend to come on a regular basis, Ballinger says.

"We have people that schedule once a month," she says.

Because of the high demand for the hour-long sessions, however, UHS advises undergraduates to consider the chair massage option.

For $10, a student can have a massage therapist come to his or her room and give a ten-minute massage. At least six paying clients must be gathered at once for the chair massage, and appointments must be made at least five days in advance.

Ballinger says customers have been overwhelmingly pleased with the massages.

"The primary response is that it is very relaxing, and that even just the ten-minute appointment is worth a full day of relaxation," she says.

Smigelski, the dietician, says massage will be most helpful to students who are prone to muscle tension.

"People hold tension in their bodies, and different people have different stress organs--guts, muscles, headaches," he says. "For people who do feel a lot of muscle tension, massage is great."

Hollis, the manager of the health education office, adds that students should be sure they have time to adequately relax after any massage before investing time and money

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